Cape Town - Junior Springbok coach Dawie
Theron praised his team’s fighting spirit as they came back from trailing at
half-time to comprehensively beat Japan by 59-19 in their opening match of the
World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England, on Tuesday.
It was a morale-boosting
victory for the South African Under-20s, who found themselves 19-7 down after
31 minutes in the first half, but never backed off to finally outscore Japan by
eight tries to three. The score at the break was 19-14.
“The first half was a bit of a shock for the guys and I
think they didn’t really expect that, but I told this that this is a World Cup,
you have to convert your opportunities into points,” said Theron.
“We probably were a little shell-shocked when they scored
those three tries, but I am proud of the way the players fought back. Japan
played well and they targeted the rucks, which they did not do last year.
“It was a tough lesson for us, but we adapted quickly. I
think we regrouped very well as a team after a hard team talk at half-time and
we stuck to our structures, which worked in the end.”
Powerful flank and Man of the
Match Zain Davids (flank) and SA U20 captain Jeremy Ward (centre) both scored a
brace of tries each, while fullback Curwin Bosch was flawless with the boot as
he slotted all eight conversions and a long-range penalty goal for a personal
tally of 19 points.
Such was the quality of the
team’s second half performance, they denied Japan from adding to their score.
A series of handling errors
and turnovers in the opening exchanges denied the Junior Springboks from taking
advantage of their territorial advantage. However, they made a breakthrough in
the ninth minute when Davids forced his way through a gap in the midfield and
dashed to the tryline for the first points of the match. Bosch converted to
hand the team a 7-0 lead.
Japan hit back with a try by
wing Ataata Moeakiola who raced to the tryline after breaking through the
defence, which they converted to level the scores. A few minutes later,
following a great cross kick following a series of pick-and-goes, saw Moeakiola
score his second try to see the Japanese take a 14-7 lead.
The Junior Boks were dealt a
big blow soon after as wing S’busiso Nkosi received a yellow card for a dangerous
tackle. Japan took full advantage of this, with Moeakiola earning his hat-trick
in the 30th minute after dancing his way through the defence out
wide to see his team take a 19-7 lead.
South Africa replied by
applying pressure on attack, and there were soon equal numbers as Japanese
flank Faulua Makisi received a yellow card. Junior Springbok centre JT Jackson
had the last say in the half as he snapped up a chip kick from flyhalf Manie
Libbok in the 36th minute to touch down for the team’s second try, which
reduced the deficit to 19-14 shortly before the break.
The South Africans came out
firing in the second half and applied pressure on Japan immediately, which
allowed Ward to score their third try compliments of a fantastic break by
Davids and a well-timed pass by Libbok. Bosch converted to hand the team a
Davids’ hard work paid off
again in the 44th minute after a dummy pass and straightened, which
saw him cruise to the tryline for his second try of the match.
Ward added his second try four
minutes later after Libbok intercepted and ran up-field before passing out wide
to take advantage of the space. Bosch converted for a 35-19 lead and then added
along-range penalty from 51m out in the 55th minute to stretch the
Ward and his team continued to
inflict damage as the match progressed, with Libbok sneaking through a hole in
the defence in the 63rd minute to touch down for the team’s sixth try, while
speedster Mosolwa Mafuma added another in the 70th minute to take
their score to 52 points.
Japan showed their fighting
spirit as the clock continued to wind down, but their efforts to score were
negated by the determined Junior Springbok defence.
In stark contrast to their
Japanese counterparts, the South African’s continued to use their try-scoring
chances as they completed the match with a try by replacement prop Carlü Sadie,
which Bosch converted to secure a morale-boosting 59-19 victory.
Tries: Jackson, Davids (2), Ward (2), Libbok, Mafuma, Sadie
Conversions: Bosch (8)
Tries: Moeakiola (3)
Conversions: Kanai (2