The Junior Springboks beat France 37-15 on Sunday to finish third in the World Rugby U20 Championship. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
After the disappointment of a 24-22 semi-final defeat to England, the South African U20s did well to sweep aside France, who they drew with a fortnight ago.
Despite dominating territory and possession in the first half, South Africa struggled to make inroads against the structured and well-organised French defence. In fact, they trailed by one at the break and it was only in the second half, when the match transcended into a loose and unstructured contest, that they managed to pull away on the scoresheet.
Hooker Johan Grobbelaar was a standout for the Junior Boks with two tries, but it was the bulky No 8, Juarno Augustus, who continued to impress with another magnificent individual performance. Augustus, who has been nominated for the Player of the Tournament, capped off his campaign by scoring his seventh try of the competition.
Lock Ruben van Heerden barged over for the first try of the game and flyhalf Manie Libbok converted. But France held their own and hit back quickly with an unconverted try and a penalty for an 8-7 lead, which they managed to hold on to until half-time.
In the second half, the Junior Boks injected more pace and power into their attack, which France couldn't contain or match.
Grobbelaar darted over for his first try, with Libbok kicking the conversion and adding a penalty to put SA U20 back in the ascendancy. France’s defence then fell flat, allowing their opponents to score at will.
Replacement centre David Brits and Grobbelaar extended the Junior Boks’ lead, while Libbok also chipped away at the scorecard with two penalties. Augustus, who had been a prominent figure throughout the game, was then – fittingly – rewarded with SA U20’s last try.
France had the final say with a self-converted try by Baptiste Couilloud, but by then the Junior Boks had already wrapped up bronze, thus sealing the final top seed spot alongside finalists England and New Zealand for next year's tournament.
Junior Boks – Ruben van Heerden, Johan Grobbelaar (2), David Brits, Juarno Augustus. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalties: Libbok (2).
France U20 – Tries: Peato Mauvaka, Baptiste Couilloud. Conversion: Couilloud. Penalty: Couilloud.
Junior Springboks – 15 Jeanluc Cilliers, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Gianni Lombard, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 6 Zain Davids, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Subs: 16 Kwenzo Blose, 17 Daniel Jooste, 18 Wikus Groenewald, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Francois de Villiers, 22 David Brits, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
France U20 – 15 Romain Buros, 14 Lucas Tauzi, 13 Theo Millett, 12 Pablo Uberti, 11 Faraj Fartass, 10 Baptiste Couilloud, 9 Arthur Coville, 8 Selevasio Tolofua, 7 Baptiste Pesenti, 6 Alexandre Roumat, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Florian Verhaeghe (captain), 3 Zakaria El Fakir, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Georges-Henri Colombe.
Subs: 16 Daniel Brennan, 17 Florian Dufour, 18 Thomas Laclayat, 19 Killian Geraci, 20 Ibrahim Diallo, 21 Thomas Laurent Alex Darmon, 22 Nathan Decron, 23 Arthur Retiere.
Photo: World Rugby