The Junior Boks qualified for the semi-finals of the World Rugby U20 Championship despite slumping to a 46-29 defeat against France in their final pool game in Narbonne on Thursday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The result confirmed France as Pool C winners and secured them automatic semi-final qualification along with New Zealand and England. South Africa scraped through to the last four as the best runners-up and will face England next Tuesday.
Where do you begin to dissect this spectacular capitulation by the Junior Boks? They were on the ropes right from the start and it did not reflect well on the players or the coach.
There had been warning signs in the games against Georgia and Ireland earlier this week, but every time the Junior Boks managed to complete a comeback.
Not on this occasion, though. Yes, they’ve been dealt a couple of telling injury blows, but this team was brutally exposed defensively, struggled to compete at the set pieces and were well and truly kept in checked on attack. And when they did have a rare attacking opportunity, poor decision-making cost them.
Chean Roux’s decision to select Wandisile Simelane – the competition’s top try-scorer – out on the wing, when he is more influential and threatening at outside centre, was also inexcusable.
France were superb in their execution as they toyed with the Junior Boks. Tighthead prop Demba Bamba, flank Cameron Woki, No 8 Jordan Joseph and flyhalf Louis Carbonel caused the most damage against South Africa’s disjointed defence.
France’s first four tries were scored in the left-hand corner where wing Tyrone Green defended. But while he was always the final defender, it would be harsh to lay the blame solely on him when his teammates left him so horribly exposed alone at the back.
South Africa were forced to make 52 tackles in the first 30 minutes and they missed 28 of them.
Joseph opened the scoring in the eighth minute when France retrieved the ball after South Africa secured possession at a lineout. The hosts shifted the point of attack out wide and Joseph bulldozed through the tackles of Gianni Lombard and Green to pull off a spectacular finish. Carbonel added the conversion and a penalty soon afterwards for a 10-point lead.
But that was only the start of France’s demolition job. Carbonel would score one of the best tries of the tournament in the 16th minute. Bamba made a linebreak and offloaded superbly off the ground to Woki, who went on a surging run before releasing Carbonel in at the corner.
The hosts bagged three more tries before the break, including a second for Joseph, to lead 36-7. Hooker Schalk Erasmus dotted down for South Africa on the stroke of half-time.
The Junior Boks controlled the possession stakes in the second half to stop the bleeding somewhat, but by then the damaged had been done.
However, credit must go to the Junior Boks for outscoring France four tries to one after the break to ensure they claimed a try-scoring bonus point to advance to the semis.
Simelane was heavily involved in the second half and crucially scored his team’s third try before replacement prop Alulutho Tshakweni and Sazi Sandi crashed over.
France – Tries: Jordan Joseph (2), Louis Carbonel, Pierre Barassi, Romain Ntamack, Jean Baptiste Gros. Conversions: Carbonel (3), Ntamack (2). Penalties: Carbonel (2).
Junior Springboks – Tries: Schalk Erasmus, Tiaan van der Merwe, Wandisile Simelane, Alulutho Tshakweni, Sazi Sandi. Conversions: Lubabalo Dobela, Gianni Lombard.
France – 15 Clement Laporte, 14 Matthis Lebel, 13 Pierre Louis Barassi, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Lucas Tauzin, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Arthur Coville, 8 Jordan Joseph, 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Antonin Berruyer, 5 Thomas Lavault, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Guillaume Marchard, 1 Hassane Kolingar.
Subs: 16 Jean Baptiste Gros, 17 Maxime Lamothe, 18 Damiel Brennan, 19 Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 20 Charlie Francoz, 21 Jules Gimbert, 22 Adrien Seguret, 23 Iban Etcheverry.
Junior Springboks – 15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Lyle Hendricks, 11 Wandisile Simelane, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Muller Uys, 7 PJ Steenkamp, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Ruan Vermaak, 4 Salmaan Moerat (c), 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Subs: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 David Coetzer, 23 Sihle Njezula.
Photo: Alexandre Dimou/Getty Images