It was a day of comebacks for the table-topping DHL Western Province Under-21s, as they fought back from two big deficits to eventually beat the Xerox Golden Lions Under-21s by 44-38 in a high-quality match in Johannesburg.
Having trailed by 13-25 at half-time, the DHL WP U21s found themselves down by 16-32 early in the second half – as well as being a man down (with hooker Chad Solomon in the sin bin) – before rallying back to win by five tries to four in a truly memorable comeback victory.
A 70th minute try by inside centre Jarryd Sage, converted by replacement flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, saw the DHL WP U21s lead by 37-35 – the first time they were ahead in the game, the hosts having led by 10-0 after ten minutes in the match.
Right-wing Khanyo Ngcukana scored two tries (either side of half-time), with lock Johannes Momsen and outside centre EW Viljoen the other try-scorers for the Province youngsters.
Starting flyhalf Brandon Thomson kicked three conversions and three penalties, with JL du Plessis adding two conversions at the end, to record a ninth win of the season for the Robbie Fleck-coached team who, now, cannot be caught at the summit of the 2015 Absa Under-21 log, despite one round of league action still to come.
Earlier in the match, meanwhile, highly-rated young lock JD Schickerling made his return to action just 13 months after breaking his neck in an Absa Provincial Under-21 encounter between the DHL WP U21s and the Bulls.
Schickerling, who has represented his country at Under-18 and Under-20 level, enjoyed a 25-minute cameo and impressed with his willingness to get involved, even making a barn-storming run with ball in hand when his team needed it most.
When Schickerling came on the Lions’ U21s were leading 32-23, coach Fleck showing great faith to make the change at that stage of the topsy-turvy encounter which was eventually decided by Viljoen’s angled finish in the 78th minute.
* READ HERE about the brilliant recovery of Daniel du Plessis, the young hooker who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while playing for the DHL WP U21s last month.
For Xerox Golden Lions Under-21:
Tries: Meyer, Venter, Reynolds, Brink
Cons: Reynolds 3
Pens: Reynolds 3
For DHL Western Province Under-21:
Tries: Ngcukana 2, Momsen, Sage, Viljoen
Cons: Thomson 3, J du Plessis 2
Pens: Thomson 3
Golden Lions Under-21: 15 Kobus Engelbrecht, 14 Godfrey Ramaboea, 13 Koch Marx, 12 Gerdus van der Walt, 11 Caswell Khoza, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jano Venter, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Gideon Koegelenberg, 4 Bobby de Wee (captain), 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Clinton Theron.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Arnout Malherbe, 18 JP du Preez, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Thabo Mabuza, 21 James Campbell, 22 Cameron Rooi.
DHL Western Province Under-21: 15 Jason Worrall, 14 Khanyo Ngcukana, 13 EW Viljoen (vice-captain), 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Marcus Kleinbooi, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 SP Ferreira, 8 Rikus Bothma (captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Kobus van Dyk, 4 Johannes Momsen, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Wesley Adonis.
Replacements: 16 Martin Wipplinger, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 JD Schickerling, 19 Devon Nash, 20 Justin Phillips, 21 Ryno Eksteen, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe