Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux was pleased on Friday with his team’s first hit-out in the lead-up to the World Rugby U20 Championship as they defeated the Down Touch Griffons 24-20 in the sweltering heat at the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom.
The hosts opened up the scoring, but found themselves under pressure as the Junior Boks broke away on the scoreboard thanks to four tries. However, they staged a brave comeback to go down 24-20.
“For our first game, I am very happy with the performance,” said Roux. “We certainly saw what we wanted to see. Some of the players put up their hands, which was encouraging, and our commitment on defence was pleasing at times.
“Obviously there were mistakes, but it was the first competitive game that we played. In general, however, it was a good performance on what was a hot afternoon.”
Roux, however, said there was hard work ahead to reach the standard of play he would like to see his team display in Georgia.
“We haven’t worked much on our first phases, so there is a lot of work to be done in our lineouts, scrums and at the breakdowns, which is one of the pillars of our game,” said Roux. “So those are the main areas we have to work on this week.”
Down Touch Griffons flanker Jean Pretorius scored the first try of the match, which flyhalf Juan Kotze converted. Kotze followed this up with a penalty goal minutes later to take a 10-0 lead.
The Junior Springboks, however, found their rhythm soon after and struck back with two tries by hooker Daniel Jooste from rolling mauls.
Centre Wayne van der Bank scored the team’s third try seven minutes before halftime after gathering a pop pass by fullback Gianni Lombard for a 17-10 lead, which they managed to maintain going into the break.
The Junior Boks picked up where they left off in the second half with winger Mfundo Ndhlovu touching down the team’s fourth try after two minutes in thanks to a fantastic break by replacement centre Cornel Smit. This pushed the team 24-10 ahead.
The Down Touch Griffons, however, fought back strongly by applying pressure on attack, and their efforts paid off with centre Duan Pretorius crossing the line to reduce the gap to 24-15.
Replacement wing Calvano King added another try for the hosts in the dying minutes to reduce the gap on the scoreboard to four points, but the team managed to sustain the pressure applied by the Griffons to secure the 24-20 victory.
Junior Springboks 24 (17) – Tries: Daniel Jooste (2), Wayne van der Bank, Mfundo Ndhlovu. Conversions: Benhard Janse van Rensburg (2).
Down Touch Griffons 20 (10) – Tries: Jean Pretorius, Duan Pretorius, Calvano King. Conversions: Juan Kotze (2). Penalty Goals: Juan Kotze