A slow start, ill-discipline and unforced errors cost the SA Schools team as they went down by 30-28 to Wales in their opening match of the Under-19 International Series at Paul Roos Gymnasium on Stellenbosch on Friday afternoon.
Welsh flyhalf Cai Evans contributed 20 points with the boot through six penalty goals and a conversion. No 8 Lennon Greggains scored both his team’s tries.
For the South Africans, fullback Kennedy Mpeku, replacement flank Mark Snyman and replacement hooker Morne Brandon scored tries, but Lance Sendin’s team were left rueing many missed opportunities to score.
The home team were on the back foot from the start. Greggains opened the scoring in the second minute with his first try and Evans added the conversion and a penalty goal to see the Welsh lead by 10-0 after only five minutes.
Mpeku’s try saw the hosts close the gap to 10-5, but Evans added three more penalty goals while the SA Schools team failed to convert a number of scoring opportunities.
They closed the gap to 19-14 thanks to three penalty goals in the third quarter by flyhalf Christopher Schreuder, but Evans’ fifth penalty goal and Greggains’ second try, in the 57th minute, when the SA Schools team were a man down with Dylan Richardson in the sin bin, all but sealed the result.
Evans added a sixth penalty goal with seven minutes left, after which the hosts launched a spirited fightback, with Snyman and Brandon crossing for converted tries, but it was too little too late for the SA Schools team.
“We were slow at the start and a bit lethargic, which could have been because of a hard training week,” said Sendin.
“We sped things up in the second half and I think the boys showed a lot of character to get the points and fix what went wrong in the first half, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I’m still proud of the effort they showed late in the match though.”
In the first match of the day, England beat France by 24-8 after leading 19-3 at the break. In the second round of action, on Tuesday 15 August at Paarl Gymnasium, England face Wales (14h15) and the SA Schools team take on France (16h00).
SA Schools – Tries: Kennedy Mpeku, Mark Snyman, Morne Brandon. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (2). Penalty goals: Christopher Schreuder (3).
Wales – Tries: Lennon Greggains (2). Conversion: Cai Evans. Penalty goals: Evans (6).