Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux lauded his team’s determined second-half display against Ireland in their World Rugby U20 Championship match at Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l’Amitié in Narbonne on Sunday to register a 30-17 bonus-point victory.
The SA U20s scored five tries to two by Ireland, with Wandisile Simelane (centre) earning a hat-trick, which steered the team to their second bonus-point win in as many games in the competition.
“I am very proud of the players’ effort in the second half,” said Roux.
“I thought we started off well and then we went off the boil, but the players showed tremendous character to come back. The fact that we didn’t play to our full potential and still earned the bonus point says something about the team.”
Roux said there was hard work ahead, but he admitted that the victory was good for the team’s confidence.
“It does give us confidence going forward,” he said.
“It shows that the team can win under tough circumstances even if though they did not play to their potential, but there is a lot of work ahead. It is going to be a tough game against the French, who are a quality side.
“There are some sore bodies and injured players, so we have take stock, go the drawing board and make our plans to take on France.”
Burger opened up the scoring for the Junior Springboks early on as he charged down the ball from an Ireland scrum and pounced on it, and the successful conversion by flyhalf Damian Willemse handed the team an early 7-0 lead.
Muller du Plessis (wing) added their second try in the 19th minute after some good handling skills to get the ball out wide and he dashed to the tryline to stretch the team’s lead to 12-0.
The SA U20s applied sustained pressure on attack and they did well to counter Ireland’s efforts with their determined defence.
Ireland worked their way back into the match as they slotted over a penalty goal in the 23rd minute and then worked their way to the tryline, and their efforts paid off in the 34th minute as their captain, Caelan Doris, gathered the ball from a scrum to score.
The Irish tried to capitalise on a yellow card by SA U20 replacement flanker PJ Steenkamp for infringing at a ruck on the stroke of halftime, but their attempt was unsuccessful as they lost the ball over the tryline, which saw the South Africans enter the break 12-10 ahead.
Ireland started the second half strongly with a try by fullback Michael Silvester four minutes after play resumed.
But back-to-back tries by Simelane, who first sprinted to the tryline after getting the ball out wide, and then gathered a well-timed box kick from Burger after a solid rolling maul, cancelled this out. His second try not only pushed the SA U20s back into the lead, it also earned the team their bonus point for four tries.
Gianni Lombard (fullback), who took over goal-kicking after Willemse was forced to leave the field injured, extended the team’s lead with 12 minutes to play as he slotted over a penalty goal.
The team continued to play until the final whistle as Simelane earned his hat-trick try in the 77th minute after Burger drew a defender and passed, which sealed a 30-17 victory for the Junior Springboks.
The team will face hosts, France, in their final pool match in Narbonne on Thursday, 7 June.
Junior Springboks 30 (12) – Tries: Zak Burger, Muller du Plessis, Wandisile Simelane (3). Conversion: Damian Willemse. Penalty Goal: Gianni Lombard.
Ireland 17 (10) – Tries: Caelan Doris, Michael Silvester. Conversions: Conor Dean (2). Penalty Goal: Conor Dean.