Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux on Saturday lauded his team’s fighting spirit to claim the bronze medal at the World Rugby U20 Championship after outplaying hosts, Argentina, 41-16 in a strong finish to their campaign at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario.
In the final of the Championship France retained their title when they beat the Junior Wallabies 24-23 in a humdinger with the lead changing hands frrequently. France had eliminated the Junior Boks in the semi-final earlier this week.
♦ The Junior Springboks delivered a strong first-half showing during which they scored two converted tries and a penalty goal, while they limited the hosts to a penalty goal for an encouraging 17-3 halftime lead.
The second half was dramatic as the home side came out with a bang, scoring back-to-back tries and a penalty goal to reduce their deficit to one point going into fourth quarter. But the Junior Boks showed their class and character to power through for the win as they scored a timely drop goal and three more tries to seal the victory.
Junior Springbok scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba’s try, four conversions and penalty goal earned him 16 points, while winger Thaakir Abrahams scored two of the team’s five tries.
“I am very happy for the players,” said Roux. “It is tough to play five games in a row, so credit to them for finishing the tournament strongly.”
Zooming in on the match, Roux said: “In the second half we made silly mistakes and we couldn’t get our hands on the ball, but we stuck to our guns with our defence. Great defence creates chances and opportunities, and the team did a good job to pounce on that.”
Reflecting on the tournament the coach said: “From a results perspective, we wanted to win the trophy, so the lesson we will take from this is that every game is important.
“You cannot slip one, and unfortunately we were not up for it against France. But that said one needs a little bit of luck as well.
“From a player development point of view, however, several players put up their hands and took big strides forward in the last few months, so we will keep an eye on them.”
♦ Nohamba opened the scoring with a quick snipe at a ruck three minutes into the match, and he added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Argentina hit back with a penalty goal minutes later after missing an earlier attempt at the posts, and they tried hard to build on this with consistent efforts to breach the SA tryline using their quick hands, but they were shut out as the visitors’ defence held.
Nohamba increased the Junior Springboks’ lead with a penalty goal in the second quarter, and Abrahams built on this soon after as he gathered a sharp pass from Rikus Pretorius (centre) who bashed his way through the defence, which handed the team a 17-3 halftime lead.
Argentina came out firing early in the second half with Joaquin De La Vega Mendia and Mateo Carreras scoring back-to-back tries within the first four minutes of play to reduce their deficit to four points.
They added their second penalty goal on the stroke of the fourth quarter, but this was cancelled out soon after as Abrahams put his raw pace to good use on the far side of the field to touch down for his second try, which Nohamba converted.
The team built on this with a drop goal by flyhalf David Coetzer, and two more tries by lock JJ van der Mescht and centre Rikus Pretorius, which gave them the 41-16 victory.
Argentina (3) 16: Tries: Mateo Carreras, Joaquin De La Vega Mendia. Penalty Goals: Joaquin De La Vega Mendia, Nicolas Roger Farias.
Junior Springboks (17) 41: Tries: Sanele Nohamba, Thaakir Abrahams (2), JJ van der Mescht, Rikus Pretorius. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (4), Jaden Hendrikse. Penalty Goal: Sanele Nohamba.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications