SA Schools coach Sean Erasmus on Saturday praised his team’s character as they produced a strong finish in an epic match against England for a 41-22 victory in the grand finale of the Aon U18 International Series at SACS in Cape Town.
The victory ensured that they finished the series with two wins in three games. In earlier match, France outplayed Wales 52-7 to finish the tournament unbeaten.
“I am exceptionally proud of the performance today,” said Erasmus.
“When you look back at the first performance against Wales and the game against France, the boys definitely stepped up in every match. It was a long two weeks and with a lot of pressure on the players, but they answered the call today, especially in the second half.
“I hope this opportunity for the players continues for a long time to come. The last two weeks have allowed the players to develop, spend time together as a group and to learn. And this has been vital in their development.
“I look forward to seeing some of them feature for the Junior Springboks in the World Rugby U20 Championship in future.”
The first half between the SA Schools team – which is sponsored by Coca-Cola – and England was closely fought as both teams ran hard on attack and pitched up physically. The visitors, however, edged into a 17-12 lead with a successful penalty goal and extra conversion nudging them ahead of the hosts.
Erasmus’ charges, however, delivered a superior second-half showing as they out-scored their English counterparts four tries to one, for an impressive tally of six.
England struck first in the third minute with a try by Tom Roebuck, who gathered a well-timed kick and beat the defence to take a 7-0 lead.
SA Schools flanker Tristan Dullisear hit back minutes later as he finished a solid run of play, but the unsuccessful conversion left them trailing by two points.
England stretched their lead with a penalty goal in the 12 minute, but the hosts snatched the lead temporarily with a try by Sibusiso Sangweni, who received a smart pass following a pick-and-go from a scrum.
England’s George Barton ensured that his team entered the lead 17-12 ahead after he stepped his way through the defence following several phases eight minutes before the halftime hooter.
The SA Schools team made their intentions clear in the opening exchanges of the second half as Juan Mostert touched down two minutes in following a solid ruck on the far side of the field, but their lead was cancelled out as Roebuck used his raw pace to earn his second try.
The home team, however, produced a powerful finish as they scored three tries in seven minutes compliments of Darren Hendricks, Jacques Goosen and Muzi Manyike with a little over five minutes to play, and they managed to shut England out in the dying minutes to secure the 41-22 victory.
SA Schools 41 (12) – Tries: Tristan Dullisear, Sibusiso Sangweni, Darren Hendricks, Juan Mostert, Jacques Goosen, Muzi Manyike. Conversions: Hendricks (4). Penalty Goal: Hendricks.
England 22 (17) – Tries: Tom Roebuck (2), George Barton. Conversions: Barton (2). Penalty Goal: George Barton.