The Junior Springboks made a winning start to the World Rugby U20 Championship with a gritty performance against Georgia in Stellenbosch on Saturday night.
Having taken a 12-point lead into the break, the Junior Boks were pushed back by a resurgent Georgia in the second half, but a late flurry was enough to secure a 33-23 win.
It was a mixed bag from the tournament hosts at a vocal Danie Craven Stadium, with some good bits of tactical play in the first half followed by a rather scrappy and penalty-ridden second period.
Flyhalf Jean Smith was flawless off the kicking tee, deservedly named man of the match, while inside centre Ethan Hooker scored a decisive 72nd-minute try to cap a powerful showing.
Tries from outside centre Katlego Letebele and wing Jurenzo Julius, who acrobatically scored in the corner, had the Junior Boks flying in the first half.
A Smith penalty just before the break saw South Africa take a 20-8 lead into half-time.
A second try for South Africa, by Jurenzo Julius, and converted by Jean Smith extended the lead to 17-7 pic.twitter.com/EfDVPONvCC
— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) June 24, 2023
What a crazy finish! ?
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 24, 2023
The Georgians came out guns blazing in the second half, smelling blood against an SA defence that was leaving gaps to attack. It appeared the visitors might be set for an upset when they narrowed the deficit to just two points.
However, Smith’s temperament came to the fore as he slotted two pressure penalties to stretch the lead, before Hooker pounced on a loose ball to score a turnover try and seal the win.
South Africa will next be in action on Thursday against Italy U20, who suffered a 43-15 loss to Argentina U20.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images