SA Rugby High Performance manager and Junior Springbok assistant coach, Louis Koen, said the SAU20’s showed against New Zealand that if they are in the right frame of mind they can pitch up for big games, and he was confident they would ready for the World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final.
The Junior Springboks will face France in the semi-final on Monday, 17 June, at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario, with hosts, Argentina, meeting Australia in the other semi-final.
The SAU20’s finished the pool stages of the competition as the only unbeaten team after defeating Scotland, Georgia and New Zealand, which saw them being drawn against France, who booked their place in the semi-final on points’ difference.
Commenting on the team’s 25-17 victory against New Zealand, Koen said: “We are very pleased with the attitude the players showed.
“We had a specific plan going into the game and they executed it perfectly. There was also great leadership from our captain and leadership group.
“I thought the guys really stepped up and they showed that if they are in the right frame of mind they can produce a great game of rugby. So we are very proud of them. We are blessed with some great potential among this group of players.”
Koen, however, said there were areas they had to improve on as the final stages approach.
“There are definitely things we need to improve on if we want to be in the mix going forward,” said the coach.
“Our game management still needs an improvement, and there are too many times that we want to play when we are under pressure. Our playmakers can also make small improvements in their decision-making and communication.
“Over and above that I felt that we had numerous opportunities to counter-attack from the opposition’s mistakes, and we didn’t always utilise those opportunities, so there are definitely still areas to work on going into the semi-final. “We have three days to prepare and we will do everything in our power to be as well prepared as possible. That said, the players showed that they have the right mind-set and that they can pitch up for important games, and we believe they will be ready for the semi-final.”
With only two matches left in the competition, Koen was pleased with the progress the team had made since the showpiece kicked off.
“There has been an improvement in every game we played and that is a big positive for us going into the semi-final,” said Koen. “Against Scotland we did well to create opportunities, although we didn’t finish them off, and against Georgia we made a lot of errors in the first half and then showed good maturity to come back in the second half, and we scored some fantastic tries.
“Against New Zealand it was all about attitude and mind-set, so we are growing as a team in every game, and if we can continue to do that, we will give ourselves a good chance to be successful.”