Cape Town – There is so much local hype and expectation
around the Baby Boks’ appearance in a home IRB Junior World Championship final
that you get the impression some feel they just have to pitch up to knock over
arch-rivals New Zealand at Newlands on Friday.
GALLERY: Baby Boks
gear up for JWC final
Such excitement is largely understandable, of course,
especially given how wretchedly South Africa started the tournament with that
insipid, uninspiring loss to Ireland.
The Baby Boks have been on the charge pretty much ever
since, and it is certainly to be hoped that they will peak at the right time –
in the final – rather than potentially having done so in the amazing second
half against England and then extremely competent dismantling of Argentina in
They have come on in leaps and bounds since the Irish fiasco
– part of it inadvertently, because the selection bag was shaken considerably
following that opening reverse and a few initially intended “first-teamers”
quickly sidelined as others like scrumhalf Vian van der Watt, tighthead prop
Maks van Dyk and flyhalf Handre Pollard greatly reinvigorated the team as the
Injuries actually “helped”, too – in certain cases
replacements for this reason have also only enhanced the brew.
But the moment of truth now looms, and in some respects it
is the Baby Blacks, it might be argued, who enter the game (18:45 kick-off) in
a less pressured position.
Rightly or wrongly (and we will find out extremely shortly)
plenty of local pundits believe South Africa are firm favourites to clinch a
title they have never previously won since the advent of the tournament in this
format in 2008, New Zealand hogging it like the pudding-stealing bully at the
boarding school dining table.
“Weakest Baby Blacks in five years,” they are trumpeting, perhaps
just a little deceptively fuelled by that team’s maiden sampling of defeat at
this year’s event to Wales in the pool phase – in a quagmire at Stellenbosch
just before the organisers wisely abandoned the Danie Craven Stadium, mind you.
It is also felt that the Baby Boks’ pack will possess too
much muscle, especially with its superior infusion of Super Rugby experience.
Even that is a slightly questionable assessment, given South
Africa’s occasional angst at scrum-time and a line-out that has been less than
a clockwork factor virtually throughout the event.
Let’s consider the crowd factor: a spirited, viral social
media campaign has taken root to try to ensure that the showpiece takes place
before a record attendance, and it seems already that that wish will be
granted, with some 25,000 tickets reportedly sold and a gate in excess of
30,000 thus entirely possible.
Of course the Baby Boks are going to get significantly the
lion’s share of raucous support, even if at Newlands there is always the
likelihood of some portions of the local community dusting off their All
Blacks/Crusaders/Hurricanes gear with some zeal and getting behind the
But an underdog’s mindset can be a useful ally in
circumstances like these, and the burden of expectation certainly seems to lie
squarely in the Baby Boks’ hands.
The charge that this is the least inspiring Baby Blacks side
for some time may also serve as a motivational tool of some weight for the New
For the record, I nevertheless also lean – albeit not
especially comfortably -- toward Wiaan Liebenberg’s lads lifting the spoils.
But only provided that they have the right mindset for fully
80 minutes and haven’t been sucked in too fatally by the tide of home-town
Very, very few rugby sides wearing a silver fern, let’s not
forget, are easy-beats ...
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing