Junior Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick focused on the positives from the team’s 23-23 draw against France in their opening World Rugby U20 Championship match in Tbilisi, Georgia, and said good player management was vital ahead of their second clash against the hosts on Sunday.
The coaching team reviewed the match against France on Thursday morning, while the players had a morning gym session followed by early afternoon massages to boost their recovery.
“The clash against France was tough game for both teams,” said Stick. “The French played very well, and their forwards and halfbacks in particular, adapted well to the wet conditions. We also adjusted according to the weather conditions, and I have to compliment Curwin Bosch and Manie Libbok for getting us in the right places in terms of territory.
“If one looks at the statistics, we had 56% of the territory, but we didn’t convert it into points, which is something we need to improve on going into the next game.
“The other positives were our set pieces, and especially the way the scrummaged against France. Anything can happen in wet conditions, so it was great to see how physical our forwards were, while we also looked good at the breakdowns.
“One of the things we need to work on going forward is to try to get the ball to the wider channels. We tried to do it a few times against France, but we lost the ball. So we will certainly look to tighten the screws in the next few days.”
There were a few niggling injuries in the team following the physical encounter, but Stick said they would only have clarity on the status of the injuries later on Thursday.
“Nama Xaba was limping during the game and Rewan Kruger suffered a hamstring injury, while a few other players are also nursing bumps and bruises. But we will have to wait for our medical team to provide clarity on the seriousness of the injuries,” said Stick.
With only three days to prepare for their second clash against Georgia, who went down 37-26 against Argentina in their first match, Stick said good player management would be vital to ensure that the team is fresh for the next match.
“We made sure that we did all the hard work back home because we knew that there would be a quick turnaround between matches,” said Stick.
“But that said, good recovery will be essential. Every game we play now will be like a final. Georgia played well against Argentina, and the home crowd here is very passionate, so we have to step up our performance against them.”