Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux praised his team’s character as they produced a strong second-half fightback at the Vale Resort outside Cardiff against Wales for a 35-31 victory on Tuesday in the final game on their warm-up tour to the UK.
The Junior Springboks scored one try in the first half to Wales’ four, which saw them trail 24-7 at the break, but they staged a dramatic comeback to touch down four times in the second half – with the last try for the win in the dying seconds – while limiting Wales to one.
Given all the try-scoring opportunities the team created, however, they would have registered a far more convincing victory if they converted all their chances into points.
“For the players to perform the way they did in the second half after the tough week we had with all the training, gym sessions and no time off was great,” said Roux. “It certainly showed their character.”
Looking at their performance, Roux said: “We worked very hard in the scrums and lineouts this week and we got some rewards there, such as the penalty try from a pushover.
“Going into the match the score was not the most important thing for us, this week was all about getting the players to train very hard with no time off, and trying to hang in there during the game. So the fact that we beat Wales in the dying seconds says a lot about the team and their character, which is fantastic.”
His team would take a lot from the tour as they look ahead to the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina in June, Roux said. “If one thinks about it, this tour is only half of what we are going to experience in Argentina, but at least the players got a taste of it. That is something they need to get used to as quickly as possible, and hopefully they learned from this.”
Ryan Conbeer struck first for the hosts in the fifth minute as the team took advantage of space out wide, and this was followed by a competitive 15 minute spell in which neither team was able to add points.
Francke Horn scored the first points for the Junior Springboks in the 24th minute as he picked up the ball from the base of a scrum and forced his way through the defence, and the successful conversion by Sanele Nohamba pushed the team into a 7-5 lead.
Wales fought back strongly and scored back-to-back tries within three minutes through Aneurin Owen and Ioan Davies and they backed this up with a fourth try in the corner on the stroke of halftime to take a 24-7 lead.
The hosts were dealt a blow minutes into the second half as Morgan Jones was sent to the sin-bin, and the Junior Springboks capitalised on this immediately with a powerful scrum to earn a penalty try to close the gap on the scoreboard to 10 points.
Wales responded strongly with Conbeer touching down in the corner for his second try, but Dameon Venter cancelled this out soon after following a string of phases by the SAU20’s.
The Junior Springboks continued to show their fighting spirit as the match progressed and their determined efforts on attack paid off as Jaden Hendrikse crossed the tryline after the team were awarded a penalty, which reduced their deficit to three points with minutes to play.
The team got stuck in until the end despite Wales applying consistent pressure, and the rewards followed as Nohamba navigated his way through the defence in the last play, and his successful conversion earned the side the 35-31 victory.
The Junior Springboks will touch down in Cape Town on Thursday afternoon and then continue their preparations for the World Rugby U20 Championship at their training base in Stellenbosch on Friday.
They are set to depart for the international showpiece in Rosario on Wednesday, 29 May.
Wales 31 (24) – Tries: Ryan Conbeer (2), Aneurin Owen, Ioan Davies, Lennon Greggains.Conversions: Cai Evans (3).
Junior Springboks 35 (7) – Tries: Francke Horn, Penalty Try, Dameon Venter, Jaden Hendrikse, Sanele Nohamba. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (4).