Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux was a pleased man on Sunday after his team delivered a strong performance to defeat New Zealand by 40-30 at Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers to finish the World Rugby U20 Championship on a high note and claim the bronze medal.
The first half was tense as both teams tried hard to make their presence felt. New Zealand’s three tries and two penalty goals, to two converted tries by the SAU20s, handed them a 25-14 lead at the break.
But Roux’s charges dominated the second half and added four tries, with Tyrone Green earning his double, while they limited the opposition to just one in the final seconds of the match.
“I thought we played well, but just when we thought we started well, we made one or two bad decisions, which cost us two tries,” said Roux.
“But that is the type of experience the players need at this level so they can learn from it.
“It was an awesome comeback in the second half, and I am happy for the players because they worked very hard for this, so all credit to them.
“In saying that, I am still very disappointed that we were not in the final because that was our goal from the outset. It was good though to beat New Zealand to finish third.”
Commenting on his team’s performance, the coach said: “We delivered a balanced performance between the forwards and backs in what was the first match in which we had dry conditions without strong wind, so we could use our backs. And it was evident that there are a few brilliant players among the backs.”
The Junior Springboks started the match on a solid note with Green opening the scoring in the second minute as he gathered a loose ball and dashed to the tryline, and the successful conversion by Gianni Lombard pushed them 7-0 ahead.
New Zealand struck back soon after with tries by Jay Renton and Harry Plummer – one of which was converted – and a penalty goal by Plummer in between, which pushed them 15-7 ahead.
Junior Springbok prop Sazi Sandi reduced their deficit to one point shortly before the second quarter as he scored from a pick-and-go, with Lombard converting.
The New Zealanders added a second penalty goal in the 24th minute and their third try late in the half compliments of Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, who powered his way to the tryline, to hand them a 25-14 lead going into the break.
The SAU20s came out firing in the second half as Green forced his way through two defenders to touch down in the tackle four minutes after play resumed, which pushed them back within four points on the scoreboard.
New Zealand were dealt a blow several minutes later as they received a yellow card for an intentional foul and the Junior Boks capitalised with a try by Ruan Nortje following some good forward pressure.
They built on this with further tries by Wandisile Simelane and Asenathi Ntlabakanye as the game progressed to stretch their lead to 40-25 with five minutes to play.
New Zealand’s Caleb Clarke had the last say in the match as he touched down on the stroke of fulltime, but despite this, the Junior Boks claimed a 40-30 victory and the bronze medal.
Junior Springboks – Tries: Tyrone Green (2), Sazi Sandi, Ruan Nortje, Wandisile Simelane, Asenathi Ntlabakanye. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (5).
New Zealand U20 – Tries: Jay Renton, Harry Plummer, Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, Caleb Clarke. Conversions: Harry Plummer (2). Penalty goals: Harry Plummer (2).