The Junior Springboks got properly hammered on Thursday night, in their final Pool C game at the World Rugby U20 Championship.
They lost to their French hosts at Stade D’Honneur Du Parc Des Sports Et De L’Amitie, Narbonne. Head coach Chean Roux had made six changes before the match, which did not get the desired result. Shifting his star player from the Ireland game; Wandisile Simelane, onto the wing from the midfield, Roux was also (due to Damian Willemse’s injury) naming Lubabalo Dobela as first receiver, for the Junior Springboks.
A top-of-the-table clash required the best from the Baby Boks, but sadly they were outclassed on the day.
Junior Springboks get ‘hammered’
Cheers of “allez les bleuets” rang out from the almost capacity crowd this week. Showing that the local fans support their junior team, just as enthusiastically as their senior counterparts, French rugby can be proud of the performance and interest the home tournament has seen.
The French side came to make a statement against the Junior Boks. Chean Roux knew his team would be tested but, remained hopeful in the run up to the game. “It is a big challenge to face the host nation.” He said before the match, “they will be passionate and so will their supporters, and as a team they are big and strong. But we are looking forward to it, and we are excited about the match.”
However, the young Les Bleuets were better than expected. They scored at more than a point a minute for most of the first half. The game being all but closed out by halftime.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 7, 2018
French make a Championship statement
By playing off their towering eighth-man, Jordan Joseph, the French side managed to dominate in the midfield. He brushed off tackles and ran hard at the defenders of the Junior Springboks. Managing to get the offloads to stick almost every time.
At halftime, the Baby Boks had missed just less than 50% of their tackles. That stat improved in the second half – however most of the missed tackles were against Joseph and his team mate, Cameron Woki. The powerful flanker joined in, and the two regularly beat the South African defenders before putting their speedsters into gaps.
The young fly-half, Louis Carbonel, also outplayed his opposite number with precise kicking. Putting the Junior Springboks on the back foot, then attacking the defensive line at speed when they (too often) regained possession.
Mounting a comeback – too little, too late
The Junior Springboks were keen to get back in the game and upped their energy in the dying minutes of the first half. Their first try came from a well executed set-piece and they managed to score again right at the start of the second. Improved defense from them and worsening discipline from the hosts saw the Baby Boks claw their way back up the scoreboard. It was however too little too late.
The French side (who are the current U20 Six Nations Champions) had matched the Junior Springboks both physically and in the skills department. They scored one more try in the second half, stretching the lead beyond any hope of the Baby Boks mounting a comeback.
Junior Springboks recover crucial bonus point
The Junior Springboks then turned their attention to playing for an four-try bonus point from the game (the format rewards that aspect of the game). By reaching that, it would keep them in fourth place in the competition standings. By shear effort, the Junior Springboks got there in the end, the match ending 29-46 at full time. What seemed like a humiliation, somehow showing a (slight) halo of hope.
This result ironically sees the Junior Springboks having to face England on Tuesday night – something they may prefer. The hosts and winners of Pool C France have to take on a tougher New Zealand side. This may be an easier run into the finals for the Baby Boks; if you look at the positives.
Ironically, the U20 Championship semi-finals will also see the four junior sides playing the exact same teams as their senior counterparts do on Saturday.
French Rugby support for tournament a credit
On a side note, if this tournament could be considered a dress-rehearsal for the Rugby World Cup 2023, then the French nation will be exceptionally well prepared.
Many of the young players who featured in this game will probably be involved in that tournament five years from now. The young French team showed a lot of class on the pitch, controlling every aspect of the game. That should give their fans lots of confidence for the future.
In other results:
New Zealand 27 Australia 18 | Wales 18 Japan 17 | England 35 Scotland 10 | Italy 30 Argentina 26 | South Africa 29 France 46 | Ireland 20 Georgia 24
World Rugby U20 World Championship semi-finalists:
New Zealand v France – Tuesday June 12, Perpignan
England v South Africa – Tues June 12, Narbonne
“Main photo credit”
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