Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux attributed his team’s 34-33 defeat against Argentina in the U20 International Series at Paul Roos Gymnasium on Wednesday to ill-discipline, but there was much more to this defeat than that glaring factor.
With both packs playing with seven men from the first quarter when Junior Springbok lock Emile van Heerden and Argentina prop Francisco Coria were red-carded for punching, the Boks were playing second fiddle for most of the match, with a few bright moments showing their true potential.
Thee had less and poorer possession and have plenty of work ahead on their UK tour for which they leave on Tuesday. This side, with less outstanding players than last year’s outfit, are in the same pool as New Zealand at the U20 World Championship in Argentina a few weeks’ time where only the top side and one with the best points differential (or log points) qualify from the three pools.
The Argentinian side looked the better unit, playing as a team and controlling matters up front.
Their backs ran with typical short passes that Argentina are known for and their scrum in particular, (again) showed up South Africa’s shortcomings in this facet.
At the breakdowns the Argentinians were also better off with their more aggressive play and earlier arrival in the fight for possession. There was, however, a pleasing show of character in fighting back when they were behind that could stand the side in good stead going forward.
♦ The Junior Boks fought back from 0-15 after 29 minutes following two Argentina tries, the first of which was from a rolling maul and the second from a push-over after a scrum, and they turned around only 12-15 behind.
These two tries came when the visitors’ No 8 Bautista Pedemonte was sent off with a yellow card and Argentina were reduced to 13 men. The Junior Springboks took full advantage of this as Francke Horn and winger Cayleb Dingaan scored tries in quick succession.
SA Rugby reports that the Junior Springboks came out firing in the second half winger and Marnus Potgieter gathered a clever kick to touch down for their third try, which allowed the Junior Boks to take the lead in the match for the first time.
The visitors, however, showed their fighting spirit as they produced a strong scrum to earn a penalty try, and they backed this up with another five-pointer by Bautista Pedemonte with 12 minutes to play.
The home side responded strongly as Potgieter burst through the defence and used his raw pace to reduce the deficit, but a yellow card to the hosts’ lock Janko Swanepoel for infringing in a maul cost them dearly.
Argentina capitalised with Francisco Minervino scoring their fifth try with seven minutes playing time left, but this was cancelled out by Potgieter who broke through for his hat-trick shortly before the final whistle. The successful conversion saw the Junior Boks suffer a heart-breaking 34-33 defeat.
♦ SA Rugby reports that both sides scored five tries in the match, goal by Argentinean flyhalf Nicolas Roger nudged them through for the one-point win.
“It was a tough game, and we produced a substandard performance,” said Roux.
“But it starts with me as the head coach. I have to look in the mirror and see where we stand and then we will take it from there.”
Roux singled out discipline as one of the biggest lessons learned in the clash and said: “You cannot win a game with poor discipline, and that cost us in the end. That is something these players have to learn at a young age.”
With the U20 International Series over, and the team set to depart for the UK on Tuesday where they will face World Rugby U20 Championship participants, England and Wales, Roux said there were a number of learnings in the last three games both on and off their field that they will take going forward.
“We are looking forward to the UK tour,” said Roux.
“We wanted to be tested this way because it is no use winning all the games in the lead-up to the World Rugby U20 Championship and then we lose there. The UK tour will certainly test the team’s character again, so this was great preparation.”
Junior Springboks (12) 33: Tries: Francke Horn, Caleb Dingaan, Marnus Potgieter (3). Conversions: David Coetzer (2), Boeta Chamberlain (2).
Argentina (15) 34: Tries: Pablo Dimcheff, Joaquin Pellandini, Penalty Try, Bautista Pedemonte, Francisco Minervino. Conversions: Nicolas Roger (2). Penalty goal: Nicolas Roger.