Morgan Piek – The semi finalists have been decided and the 2012 edition of the IRB Junior World Championship is building up to an exciting climax. This tournament is second only to the IRB Rugby World Cup itself on the International Rugby calendar. This tournament in its five-year history has already produced over 140 players that have gone on to represent their respective countries at full International level of which 25 of those players played in the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The 2012 tournament will always be remembered for poor weather conditions which saw the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch being scrapped as a venue and being replaced by the Cape Town Stadium and DHL Newlands. Although it’s always a pity to lose an ironic venue such as the Danie Craven Stadium, it should be viewed as a blessing in disguise.
The Cape Town Stadium hosted International Rugby for the very first time last night and considering the venue was organised in only 24 hours one has to commend the City of Cape Town, the IRB and the team at SARU for doing a stellar job in organising a wonderful day of rugby at the highest level. In saying that, the Cape Town Stadium also proved that they are able to host top-notch rugby which draws the crowds. Although the stadium looked empty, the venue had 12 000 supporters last night which is more than the opening night of the tournament in Stellenbosch. This should serve as an eye-opener for the Western Province Rugby Football Union.
Sunday 17 June 2012 sees the top four teams battling for the honours of playing in the Final at Newlands on 22 June 2012. The three group winners all qualified for an automatic spot in the semi final with the top runner-up joining them as the fourth team. The group winners were Wales, South Africa and Argentina. New Zealand was the top runner-up and completes the semis line-up. New Zealand and France both finished on 11 points, however, the BabyBlacks qualified because of their superior points difference.
In the tournaments five-year history the lads from the land of the long white cloud have made the semi finals every single time and have gone on to win the tournament on the four previous occasions. This places the New Zealanders right up there as tournament favourites, despite losing 9-6 to Wales in their pool game on a muddy pitch at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch. This was the first time the BabyBlacks suffered a defeat in the tournaments history. Although they bounced back to beat Fiji 33-12 last night, it was not entirely convincing.
The New Zealanders have a tremendous support base in the Cape and this could work in their favour as New Zealand sides traditionally find Newlands to be a happy hunting ground. To write-off the four time Champions would be a grave mistake. My bet is the New Zealanders will exact their revenge on the Welsh and make the Finals come Sunday evening.
The lads from the passionate rugby loving country have done really well in this tournament and have surprised a few people out there. A whole host of proud moms, dads, brothers, sisters and other relatives have made the trip from the tiny United Kingdom nation to edge their boys on. In their opening game against Fiji it looked as though the Welsh would have a disappointing tournament, however, they came back onto the field for the second half of that game and have not looked back since. They are proof that Welsh rugby is on an up and quickly becoming a powerhouse of world rugby. Their historic win over the BabyBlacks bares testament to their rise in world rugby. Last year in the same fixture the New Zealanders posted a tournament record score of 93-0 against the Scarlet’s.
Wales have only once made the play-offs, on that occasion the New Zealanders beat them 31-6. There is plenty of history between Wales and New Zealand, which will ensure their semi final is an exciting affair filled with a lot of passion. On this occasion I will tip the New Zealanders to take the honours yet again.
This is the first time the passionate Pumitas have made it as far as the semis. Throughout the tournament the rank outsiders have been causing upsets left, right and centre. In a tough group alongside Australia and France the South Americans have beaten both these rugby giants to top their group to ensure a semi final spot against South Africa. It’s very much a watershed year for Argentine Rugby with the Pumas inclusion in the Southern Hemispheres premier International competition The Rugby Championship. The Pumitas timing couldn’t have been more spot-on.
The once minnows might not have what it takes to beat the BabyBoks in the semis, but they will make sure the South Africans don’t have an easy time at Newlands on Sunday. However, the Argentines are a very passionate team and can score from anywhere-anytime. They have a fantastic pack of forwards and will give South Africa a real test in the scrums and lineouts. The South Americans may just cause their biggest upset yet come Sunday evening.
Against all the odds the South Africans showed a lot of guts in the second half against England last night to book their spot in the semi finals for the fourth time. Ironically the Baby Boks normally get knocked-out in the semi finals by the very team they beat to book their place in the play-offs.
From the outset the South Africans had a lot to deal with through injuries to key players as well as the expectations of a Nation. The Baby Boks showed a lot of guts to make the semis despite a lot of uncalled for criticism hurled in their direction. They lost their opener to a very spirited Irish outfit and it looked as if South Africa would miss out on a semi final berth for the second year running. Trailing 3-0 to England at half time last night it looked as if it would be impossible for the home side to score the required four tries and beat the English.
The second half last night was one of the finest displays of rugby in the hallowed green-and-gold I‘ve ever witnessed. Something happened at the half time break, and by their coach Dawie Therons’ own admission, nobody knows what happened during the break. The boys came out of the change room on fire and stole the victory from the English. The lads showed the character and the composure all their supporters have been waiting for. Should the BabyBoks show that same spirit in their semi final on Sunday they could very well make their first ever Final and go as far as to walk away with the top honours. I belief the South Africans will beat Argentina, but never underestimate the Pumitas; they have the ability to steal the jam out of anybodies donut.
Many South African will share my wishes and sentiments in hoping it will be a South Africa vs. New Zealand Final on Sunday 22 June 2012. We’re all aware of what happened in 1995 the last time South Africa faced New Zealand in a major International Rugby Final in South Africa. History does tend to repeat itself.
Full list of fixtures for Sunday 17 June 2012
9th Place Semi Final
• Scotland vs. Italy – University of Western Cape, Bellville. Kick-off at 12:30 CAT.
• Fiji vs. Samoa – University of Western Cape, Bellville. Kick-off at 14:45 CAT.
5th Place Semi Final
• France vs. Australia – DHL Newlands, Cape Town. Kick-off at 14:45 CAT.
• Ireland vs. England – University of Western Cape, Bellville. Kick-off at 17:00 CAT.
• Wales vs. New Zealand – DHL Newlands, Cape Town. Kick-off at 17:00 CAT.
• South Africa vs. Argentina – DHL Newlands, Cape Town. Kick-off at 19:15 CAT.