WHAT if? That was the question the U/17 Sevens rugby players of Eastern Province took with them into the National Tournament.
“We had a mindset of what if we can do it; what if we can win this,” the EP captain, Joshua Bands, said, explaining the team’s attitude over the two days.
And they did it indeed. They won the tournament at Monument High in Krugersdorp in emphatic fashion, beating Boland 25-14 in the final on Saturday.
All the big name provinces were also chasing gold but EP was clearly the best team on display. It was a fit and well-drilled team who scored some fantastic tries, well led by Bands and very well coached by Bean van Eeden, both of Grey High.
“We went into the final as the underdogs but it just showed what hard work can do. We are very proud,” Bands said, straight after winning the tournament.
Before the start of the tournament, Van Eeden explained that you need speed in the team to score tries but that your defence must also be solid to win matches. In this regard, EP was impressive. They put in some really big hits to disrupt the opposition.
A proud Van Eeden said his team took it match-by-match at the start, not thinking too much about what can happen later on in the tournament.
“I felt anything can happen if we do get to the play-offs. In the play-offs it is the team that pitches up on the day to deliver their best that pulls it off.
“The aim was to play as a team, not as individuals, to be successful.”
On Friday, EP started well by winning their first match against the Pumas. It was a tough one but the EP boys kept their cool to win 25-19.
The Bulls beat EP 26-12 in the next match but after a solid victory of 31-12 over Griquas, EP’s place in the quarter-finals was booked.
The match against the Sharks on Saturday was the second nail-biter of the tournament for EP. Again they did well under pressure and won 21-19 to set up a semi-final clash with the South Western Districts.
Although many pundits saw SWD as a team that could win the tournament, EP was always in command and won 17-0. The EP boys were licking their lips at the prospect of facing the Bulls in the final. It was a chance to put the record straight after losing to them the day before.
Boland was way too strong for the Bulls in their semi-final clash though and was regarded as huge favourites to also beat EP in the final.
EP had other plans and it was another commanding victory in the final. Boland scored their second try only right at the end to make the score look a little bit better for them.