Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux praised his team’s character despite going down 31-21 against the Tafel Lager Griquas in Kimberley on Wednesday evening and said the tough competition was exactly what he had hoped for before the World Rugby U20 Championship.
The match was a tough test for both teams thanks to the high tempo and physicality of play, but four converted tries by the hosts and a penalty goal by flyhalf George Whitehead to only three converted tries by the Junior Springboks handed Tafel Lager Griquas the 10-point victory.
“I am happy with the game as we got exactly what we expected from them,” said Roux.
“It was a hard and tough encounter with some big collisions, which is what we wanted. We may have lost by 10 points, but the scoreboard is not important. Our focus was on seeing if we could work in units and to see if our structures are falling into place.”
Commenting on the team’s defence and set piece play, which Roux targeted as key areas going into the match, he said: “There was definitely an improvement in the defence. We showed some great urgency and character on the tryline. They kept Griquas out for 10 to 15 phases at times. However, there is definitely hard work to be done regarding our set piece in the coming weeks.”
Whitehead opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a penalty goal, and the home team backed this up with converted tries by scrumhalf Christiaan Meyer and winger Alvin Brandt to build up an encouraging 17-0 lead.
The Junior Springboks, however, hit back strongly in the last 10 minutes of the half, as prop Gerhard Steenekamp crossed the chalk after a few phases close to the hosts’ tryline, which fullback Jean-Luc Cilliers converted.
Centre David Brits added the team’s second try three minutes later as he gathered the ball at pace and ran a good line, which allowed him to touch down. This allowed the team to reduce the gap on the scoreboard to 17-14, which the sides maintained going into the break.
Tafel Lager Griquas again struck first in the second half with Meyer scoring his second try, but this was cancelled out later by a stunning try by replacement Junior Bok scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who picked up the ball and dashed to tryline to trail the hosts 24-21.
The home team, however, managed to break away on the scoreboard in the dying minutes with flanker Wendal Wehr scoring their fourth try after a strong showing by their forwards, and despite a committed fight by the Junior Boks, Griquas managed to secure the 31-21 victory.
Junior Springboks 21 (14) – Tries: Gerhard Steenekamp, David Brits, Embrose Papier. Conversions: Jean-Luc Cilliers (3).
Tafel Lager Griquas 31 (17) – Tries: Christiaan Meyer (2), Alvin Brandt, Wendal Wehr. Conversions: George Whitehead (4). Penalty goal: Whitehead.