Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux lauded his team’s character after they produced an admirable team effort to defeat England 26-12 on Friday at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester, England, in their final UK tour match.
This followed victories against Wales and Scotland on tour, and Georgia in Cape Town, as part of their World Rugby U20 Championship preparations.
The Junior Springboks outscored England four tries to two, after leading 14-7 at the break.
“I am very proud,” said Roux. “This was our third match on tour against a fresh English side, and the players showed tremendous character, so all credit to them.
“It was a great team effort. I thought we had the upper hand in the scrums and the lineouts at times, and sometimes they had it, which just shows. But we were lucky to get through it.
“We really showed great character.”
With a series of solid performances in the lead-up to the World Rugby U20 Championship, Roux was confident that his charges were on the right track for the international spectacle, which will be hosted in the south of France from 30 May to 17 June.
“This most definitely gives us confidence,” said the coach. “We wanted a tough tour with three challenging games, and that is exactly what we got before the tournament.”
The first half against England was tightly fought as both packs tried to create a solid platform, while the backs fed off this to make their presence felt.
The Junior Springboks struck first with a try in the opening minutes by winger David Kriel and fullback Gianni Lombard converted to hand the team a 7-0 lead. Lombard received a yellow card shortly after for an illegal tackle, and England took advantage of this as winger Ben Loader forced his way through the defence out wide to level the scores.
The hard grind continued between the packs in the following exchanges, but it was the SAU20’s who made the most of this, as scrumhalf Rewan Kruger dotted down after some good forward pressure, which pushed the visitors 14-7 ahead.
The SAU20s extended their lead to 19-7 thirteen minutes into the second half as hooker Schalk Erasmus crossed the chalk from a rolling maul, and the team continued to apply pressure on attack as the match progressed.
England closed the gap on the scoreboard to 19-12 in the 65th minute as Henry Walker scored the team’s second try. But this was cancelled out later on as Junior Springbok centre and man-of-the-match Rikus Pretorius scored an intercept try with six minutes left on the clock to stretch their lead to 26-12.
England fought hard until the end, but the visitors’ solid defence shut them out, and they wrapped up the victory.
The Junior Springboks will return to South Africa for their World Rugby U20 Championship holding camp before departing for France on 25 May.
England U20s 12 (7) Junior Springboks 26 (14)
England – Tries: Ben Loader, Henry Walker. Conversion: James Grayson.
Junior Springboks – Tries: David Kriel, Rewan Kruger, Schalk Erasmus, Rikus Pretorius. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (3).