All Time Craven Week XV: The Bulls

We know Craven week is still a couple of months away but we thought we would get ahead of the action so to speak. Our initial plan was to do a team of the 2020’s so far as we do on a national level, however the fact that there have only been 2 Craven Weeks so far this decade made us re-look at things so in celebration of school rugby stars past and present we will be doing a weekly all time XV for the major Unions who have taken part in this tournament.

Here is our all time Bulls Craven Week XV

15) David Manuel (Waterkloof, 1998)

Manuel was known as a tough tackling and graceful fullback whose efforts helped the Bulls clinch the 1998 Craven Week title. What speaks volumes of his talent is that he managed to shine even though that years Kloofies team were far behind Affies in terms of ability but still managed to lead them to a respectable 2nd place finish in what was then known as the Beeld Trophy.

14) Vainon Willis (Waterkloof, 2006)

On paper there are fewer teams that possesses the backline Waterkloof did in 2006 with 4 of these players including Willis making the SA Schools team that year. Their golden generation may have missed out on a Beeld trophy but they did record a comprehensive 45-20 victory over eventual winners Affies that year.

Willis was a hard running winger who possessed size, strength and speed and tormented defenders throughout his schools rugby tenure. His pro career was derailed by injury but that does not take away from his exploits at schools level.

13) Jurie Linde (Affies, 2013)

Jurie Linde is one of those players still spoken about today by school rugby enthusiasts as one of the best centres they had seen in schools rugby. Everybody and their uncle were convinced of his pedigree and that he would one day become a Springbok.

The 2013 Affies first team was one of their best of all time and although more recognizable names today form part of that historic teams Linde was seen as the stalwart of the squad, a player whose rugby IQ, speed off the mark and athletic ability left a massive impact on fans and opponents alike. Linde is one of the few players who played SA Schools for 2 years achieving a rare double.

12) Stefan Watermeyer (Waterkloof, 2006)

Another one of those players who if you saw at schools level you would be left convinced that he would go all the way to the top. Watermeyer was an absolutely lethal points machine, he was one of the very dual threat centres out there being able to find space, batter opponents and with his kicking accuracy among the best in the country he was lauded by all as a future star for both the Bulls and South Africa.

Unlike others on this list Watermeyer did go on to play professional rugby for a number of years where in his first few years it seemed as though he was on the right track notching up over 50 appearances for the Bulls. After a brief stint overseas he became a journeyman representing Griquas, Pumas, Lions and finally the Kings before hanging up his boots. It is a pity we never saw him reach his full potential, but then again very few players do but Watermeyer at Waterkloof was something very special indeed.

11) Marius Delport (Zwartkop, 2003)

From our understanding almost every major school in the country was after Delport from a young age but he stuck with his school through thick and thin and when was the last time you saw a player from an unfancied school before the age of streaming make it into the SA Schools setup?

Delport was a large and uncompromising winger whose strength and speed made him almost unstoppable when he was in full flight. He did manage to have a respectable senior career representing the Bulls on numerous occasions and his try to game ratio showed his pedigree but competition is a tough thing and there was just too much in Delport’s way for him to reach the pinnacle which was unfortunate for what was undoubtedly one of the most underrated players in schools rugby.

10) Tiaan Snyman (Affies, 1998)

Ask anyone from Pretoria who can remember this far back and they will tell you Tiaan Snyman was far and away the best schools rugby flyhalf the game has seen. Snyman represented Affies from 1996 – 1998 with the team of 1996 being considered one of the best in schools history.

In 1997 and 1998 he was part of two consecutive Bulls Craven Week titles and was duly selected for the SA Schools team in both years achieving two unique doubles and a treble in the Beeld trophy with Affies winning from 1996 to 1998.

Snyman was key to these efforts and even as a school boy myself in the Eastern Cape in a time before electronic media I had heard of Snyman’s legendary exploits. His senior career was derailed by injury before an attempted comeback with the Lions, but it was never to be and bad luck meant we never got to see him fulfil his full potential. Had Snyman stayed injury free you can bet your bottom dollar that he would of worn the Green and Gold with distinction.

9) Embrose Papier (Garsfontein, 2015)

Garsfontein today was known as one of the powerhouses of schools rugby in South Africa, but it was not always that way and 10 years ago they were still building themselves into the program they would become today.

Papier was one of those trailblazers, a scrumhalf whose pace, quick feet and rugby IQ was something not seen in Pretoria where scrumhalf play is generally conservative and played to a specific system. His exploits at schools level were nothing short of incredible and he was a leading figure in Garsies winning their first ever Beeld trophy in his final year of schooling.

He is one of the few on this list who went on to become a Springbok, winning his first cap in 2018 and at 27 years of age we cannot say he is done and dusted yet but certainly he would even admit that he has not yet reached his full potential compared to the player he was at schools level. Perhaps playing in a more rigid system without his creative flair and ability to make quick decisions was part of that, truth is we will never know. Papier remains a fantastic player, but those who saw him in the mid 2010’s were not expecting to see a fantastic career they were expecting something more and I am sure he was as well.

8) Chris le Roux (Waterkloof, 1997)

Alright, so this may be a bit of a “cheat” as Le Roux primarily played as a flanker but we simply had to find space for him in this team.

Le Roux was known as a combative loose forward that took no prisoners. His ability to disrupt opponent ball and immense carrying earned him many plaudits throughout his school rugby career. He was a part of two Craven Week winning Bulls teams and coupled that with a rare double in terms of SA Schools selection in 1996 and 1997 in an Affies dominated era speaks volumes about he was able to stand out in what was certainly a crowded field in the mid to late 90’s.

7) Gary Botha (Overkruin, 1999)

We all know Gary Botha as the tough tackling hooker that earned 14 Springbok caps (it would have been more if John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis weren’t around) and was part of a golden Bulls generation which managed to secure 4 Currie Cup titles and 2 Super Rugby titles but as schools level he was known as one of the most brutal loose forwards in the country.

Coming from unfancied Overkruin and again in a time before streaming his reputation in schools rugby circles was legendary with Botha known to crush his opponents, his brute strength and ferocity in the carry led to him being selected for the SA Schools team in both 1998 and 1999, for perspective he is only one of two Overkruin players to have achieved that honour with the other being Wilhelm Joubert in 1982.

6) Derick Kuun (Affies, 2002)

A natural born leader, Kuun was known to put his body on the line and play every game as if it were his last. One of the toughest rugby players out there he led from the front and was a key cog in Affies winning two Beeld Trophy titles on the trot in 2001 and 2002.

Like Botha, Kuun was converted from his original position and played many games at senior level as a hooker. He captained the Bulls as Junior level as well as the SA Schools team in 2002 and eventually would even captain the Bulls senior team.

He would retire early in the game, some would say at his peak at the age of 30 to pursue business interests and although he never became a Springbok he had an extremely successful career for the Bulls winning numerous trophies and will long be remembered by the Loftus faithful.

5) Cornell Hess (Affies, 2007)

Hess was seen as the next big hope in Springbok rugby circles during his schools day. South Africa had been longing for a player of colour who could fill the lock position and standing over 2 meters in height and having all the qualities one looks for in a lock it seemed as if Hess had the world at his feet upon leaving school.

He played for the SA Schools team in both 2006 and 2007 and represented the team with distinction, after school he was immediately drafted into the South African Under 20 team for the first ever World Championship at that age group and was a starter in all games which the Baby Boks finished in 3rd place.

He would go on to represent the Bulls over 30 times before beginning a journeyman career. When you are at the Bulls expectations are high and when Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield among others are ahead of you it is always going to be difficult to break through. Perhaps it was the power of expectation, perhaps it was a loss of hunger, one will never know but what we do know that the towering Hess was an exceptional player at schools level and has a Craven Week title to show for it.

4) RG Snyman (Affies, 2013)

A man on this list who needs no introduction, RG the son of Ragnar as the Xhosa commentary team like to call him was born a certified beast from the day he put on his first pair of boots. Part of the aforementioned legendary Affies team just head to google images and type in “RG Snyman Affies” to take a look at what other school players had to deal with when it came to this monster.

Snyman has more than exceeded expectations of where his career would go with the big lock being one of only a handful of players to have won two Rugby World Cups. Enough said.

3) John Smit (Pretoria Boys, 1996)

Another player who needs little introduction and yet another player whose switching of positions made his senior career. John Smit is associated strongly with the Sharks but it was as a hard as nails and powerful prop at Pretoria Boys where he made his name with SA Schools selection that same year.

Smit went on to captain the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007 and remains a legend in the eyes of many Bok fans.

2) Chilliboy Ralepelle (Pretoria Boys, 2003)

One of the most memorable school rugby hookers out there, Chilliboy earned rave reviews for his exploits at Pretoria Boys where he was a vital cog in their pack of forwards and a true leader on and off the field.

After school he went through the youth systems with ease eventually being named South African captain for the 2006 Under 21 World Championship, a tournament the team would eventually lose in the final but a team everyone expected to win the tournament with ease.

He would go on to represent the Bulls on over 100 occasions and earned himself a test debut for South Africa in 2006, many saw him as the heir apparent not only to John Smit as a hooker but as a future captain of the team as well. Ralepelle’s star was on the rise but a bad run of form and plenty of competition for the number 2 jersey saw his career begin to decline. There were still glimpses of the Chilliboy of old when he moved to the Sharks but he made his last appearance for the Springboks in 2018 and in 2019, well the less said about that the better. Let us just remember him for the school rugby prodigy he once was.

1) Pierre Schoeman (Affies, 2012)

Schoeman had a massive reputation at schools level as a bulldozer of a prop. He represented the Bulls at Grant Khomo with distinction and made the Craven Week sides of 2011 and 2012 the latter of which the Bulls won with a massive 46-0 victory over rivals the Lions.

He then went on to represent the Bulls senior side with distinction, as a SA Schools prop in both his senior years which is extremely rare for the position he further made 5 appearances for the Baby Boks and is seemed a green and gold jersey was in his future.

It was a bit of a shock when he announced he was leaving for Edinburgh in 2018 but has since gone on to become a key player for the team making over 100 appearances before his 30th birthday. In 2021 he qualified for the Scottish national team and has since made over 30 appearances for his adopted nation.

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