ITHEMBELIHLE enjoyed a highly successful trip to Durban, winning all three of the matches in the annual KwaZulu-Natal development rugby tournament.
What made their effort all the more meritorious is that the victories came against regional teams.
In their first game, Ithembe came up against the top-ranked side, Durban, and won 7-5 in a hard match played in hot conditions of 34°C.
Durban attempted to dominate the match by using their big forwards but Ithembe rose to the occasion and stopped them in their tracks every time they launched an attack.
Ithembe were behind for most of the game but started to find their rhythm in the last 10 minutes to launch a wave of attacks on their tryline as the Durban forwards tired.
They were eventually rewarded when lock Diva Busakwe burst over under the posts for the winning try, with wing Ayabonga Mteto slotting the conversion. Busakwe was named man of the match after an outstanding performance.
In their second game, against the KZN South XV, Ithembe were quickly into their stride, with locks Busakwe and Attie Faku, No 8 Mbulelo Shuwana, centre and captain Bull Mendu, wing Mteto (2) and Anele Jonga scoring tries. Flyhalf Akhona Tshoba added three conversions and was deservedly selected man of the match for a brilliant all-round performance.
In the final, Ithembe faced another big pack of forwards in the unbeaten Zululand side, but were ready for the challenge. The PE team put Zululand under a lot of pressure from the start with a quick try by flank Isaac Nqweniso, who simply brushed the defenders aside to score under the posts. Mteto kicked the conversion.
But Zululand showed fighting qualities by scoring a try before Ithembe regained control, getting out of trouble when hooker Gigi Nokeva claimed a crucial tighthead on their tryline after the Zulus had pressed hard.
Shuwana began to dominate the lineouts and although Ithembe only held a slender two-point lead at halftime, they showed great determination in the second half and it was not long before he broke loose from his own 10m line to run straight through the defence for a try under the posts, converted by Bandile Menze.
Ithembe then scored the try of the match. From a kick-off, the forwards gained control and the ball was quickly spread to the wings. Mteto cut through and there was some delightful inter-passing between backs and forwards before fullback Siyavuya Sogoni dived over for their final try.
Ithembe were named the u-17 team of the tournament and flyhalf Tshoba was named best back.
A YOUNG Ithembelihle side were defeated 13-5 by Molly Blackburn in their schools fixture at the weekend.
With 12 players under 17 in the team, Ithembe struggled in the early stages as the strong wind made life difficult for both sides. Down 13-0, Ithembe finally got on the board when skipper Sipho Ngwalangwala broke from a scrum to score a good try.