Quintin van Jaarsveld
Paddock Polocrosse Club ace Kenan Classen could not have hoped for a better debut as the South African Under-21s whitewashed Ireland in a three-Test series in Mooi River at the weekend.
It was truly a dream debut for the South Coast star, who showed he’s equally efficient and effective at Under-21 level as he was throughout his junior national career.
The 17-year-old was a defensive wall in the number three and two positions, and was acknowledged as the Best Number Three of the Series.
Making up the South African team were Classen, Brian Cooper, Chad von Benecke, Josh le Roux, Paula MacLarty, Tayla Mansfield, Chelsea McDonald and Courtney O’Dell, who replaced Caley Higgs.
Classen’s Paddock Polocrosse Club stablemate, 16-year-old Jens Bunge, was a reserve.
South Africa set the tone for the series with a 32-10 win in the opening fixture on Friday, and clinched the series with a 28-11 victory on Saturday before claiming a clean sweep with a dominant 39-4 win on Sunday.
“It was an absolute honour to represent my country at international Under-21 level,” Classen told eHowzit.
“I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming happiness I felt with each win. My whole team was thrilled.”
As a staple in South African junior sides – from Under-14 to Under-19 level – in the past, Classen has plenty of experience.
However, Friday’s series-opening fixture was different. It was the biggest game of his life, as he would earn his full Protea colours.
He admitted to feeling a few butterflies in his stomach during the pre-match national anthem.
“It was so exciting; I couldn’t wait to get on the field and play. I kept telling myself to relax before the game because I was feeling a little nervous.”
Classen said it was an unforgettable series and credited a strong team dynamic for their domination of the Irish.
“It was an amazing tour with a great bunch of friends. Due to the fact that we were a very bonded team, we were able to trust each other on and off the field which helped us play well together. This team was one of those teams that made you feel you could go to war together.
“We managed to achieve some personal and team goals that were quite difficult to achieve. In the final game, we were just one goal away from our team goal of getting a score of 40.”
Photos by Shannon Gilson