The Junior Springbok team that was perhaps “over”-lauded following their win against the All Blacks in their final pool match of the World Rugby Championship on Friday, will have to settle for a third or fourth place (again).
They were taught a lesson in application, discipline and defence by the defending champions France on Monday night. They battled for possession and continuity in the whole of the first half and were outplaced in virtually every department of the game in their 20-7 defeat on a field that wasn't fully dry.
The one-dimensional approach that the Junior Boks decided on for their game plan was obviously foreseen by the French, who tackled South Africa out of their prepared attacking rhythm. And there can be little argument: the French were the better pack which won them the game.
♦ France completely dominated the first half and controlled the game with judicious kicking, tough forward play and some good counter-attacks from poor South African kicking, with their fullback Matthis Lebel particularly impressive.
The Junior Boks only really looked like scoring twice: That was when they did from a lineout maul just after the halftime hooter, and two minutes before that, also from a maul and after close on 20 eventually unsuccessful phases.
In the second half, the Junior Boks came out with real resolve, dominated up front for 14 minutes with phase after phase being repelled by the defending champions. They seldom looking to go wide where especially fullback Vaugan Isaacs and wingers Thaakir Abrahams and Angelo Davids looked full of running on the one or two occasions that they received the ball.
Virtually without fail the forwards’ ploughing on into the opposition saw the ball being turned over.
The reality is that the Junior Springboks were simply outplayed and out-thought by a better side that struck their best form in their fourth match of the competition and read the Junior Boks game plan perfectly.
♦ Perhaps the Junior Boks were over-confident after beating New Zealand in their last pool match, but the reality, in hindsight, is that this wasn’t a great Kiwi side they had beaten. New Zealand went down to a very average Wales in the one semi-final to determine fifth place in the tournament and will therefore play off against Ireland for 7th/8th position in the tournament on Saturday.
♦ France will play Australia in the final at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario on Saturday (20:30) while the Springboks will face Argentina at 18:00.
Argentina had the advantage of playing against a fourteen-man against Australia, side who had their scrumhalf sent off just before halftime.
However, the Junior Wallabies tackled with determination, linked well and ran out rather easy winners over an error-ridden and ill-disciplined Argentina.