- England U18 fly half out to avenge last year's defeat
- “We know that it’s going to be intense” – Sam Olver
Photo: RFU Archive
England Under 18 fly half Sam Olver is in the midst of his third visit to the Rainbow Nation, and says he can’t wait to tackle South Africa Schoolboys in today's opening match (kick-off 2:30pm BST).
Sam, whose father John represented England three times in the earlier nineties, first came to South Africa on a cricket tour with Oundle School at 15, playing at the same school where England are now training – Wynberg Boys' High School.
Memories of the cricket tour are conveniently hazy for Sam – “they don’t give you any easy wickets,” he says – but it gave him a taste of what was to come.
His second trip came in the summer of 2012. While England was bathing in a warm Olympic glow, the Under 18s were putting the hard yards in against their African counterparts, eventually coming unstuck 36-29. It is a game Sam believes was his toughest so far.
“We can’t wait to take them on in their own back yard again,” he said. “It’s been 12 months since I was here last and that loss still hurts a bit to be honest. I didn’t start the game last summer, but I noticed the physicality when I got on sraight away. They had some big lads – and that’s what they pride themselves on.
“Having played last year I feel that I have a little bit more responsibility within the 18s group, but it’s the same with a few of the other guys, the likes of Charlie Ewels and Howard Packman – they were here last summer and they know what it’s like, so we’re taking nothing for granted.”
The magnitude of the task in hand isn’t lost on Sam – a quick flick through the South Africa sports channels illustrates just how popular schools rugby is – the opportunity to see potential Springboks in action draws the crowds in. But that’s all part of the thrill for Head Coach John Fletcher’s young side.
“We know that it’s going to be intense,” Sam explains. “Schools rugby is massive over here, it’s engrained within their culture and they have immense pride in representing their country – but so do we. It promises to be an exciting game.”
England Under 18 fixtures
South Africa Schoolboys – August 9, City Park Stadium, Cape Town
Wales Under 18 – August 13, Quteniqua Park, George
France Under 18 – August 17, Boland Rugby Stadium, Wellington