The Junior Boks began their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign with a 59-19 win over Japan in Manchester on Tuesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
SA U20 coach Dawie Theron selected a powerful side for this clash, with 15 Varsity Cup players in the match 23. And while the scoreline might suggest they were a cut above their opponents, the Junior Boks' overall performance was disappointing.
The Junior Boks dominated territorially in the first quarter of the match, but their execution let them down, with Japan defending valiantly and disrupting their opponents at the breakdown.
A try by Zain Davids was all the South Africans had to show for their early attacking efforts. The blindside flank made a storming midfield break and fended off a would-be tackler to score.
But there was a swing in momentum as Ataata Moeakiola ripped through the Junior Boks’ defence to complete his hat-trick in a 10-minute purple patch.
The bulky winger’s first came from a set move at a lineout where he stood at second receiver and broke through a hole in the Junior Boks' defensive line.
His second came after he leaped high to pluck a cross-field kick out of the air in the in-goal area, with Junior Boks No 8 Junior Pokomela receiving a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the buildup.
Moeakiola’s third came in unorthodox fashion for a backline player when sheer upper-body strength saw him burst through two tacklers from close range to leave South Africa reeling.
The playing field was levelled when Japan were reduced to 14 men. South Africa capitalised with a try by centre JT Jackson, who latched onto flyhalf Manie Libbok’s deft left-footed chip kick, which left them trailing 19-14 at the break.
The second half saw a complete turnaround in fortunes as the Junior Boks blew away Japan with six unanswered tries, which were aided by a better showing at the set pieces.
Three scores in quick succession by captain Jeremy Ward (two) and Davids saw South Africa lead 35-19.
Fullback Curwin Bosch then succeeded with a long-range penalty goal, before Libbok, winger Mosolwa Mafuma and replacement prop Carlü Sadie all crossed the line to take the Junior Boks well past 50.
Junior Springboks – Tries: Zain Davids (2), JT Jackson, Jeremy Ward (2), Manie Libbok, Mosolwa Mafuma, Carlü Sadie. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (8). Penalty: Bosch.
Japan U20 – Tries: Ataata Moeakiola (3). Conversions: Taisetsu Kanai (2).
Junior Springboks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 S’busiso Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward (c), 12 JT Jackson, 11 Mosolwa Mafuma, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 James Hall, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Zain Davids, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Jaco Holtzhausen, 2 Tango Balekile, 1 Kwenzo Blose.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Franco van den Berg, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Ruben de Villiers, 20 Denzel Hill, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Keanu Vers.
Japan U20 – 15 Takuhei Yasuda, 14 Ataata Moeakiola, 13 Shintaro Nagatomi, 12 Doga Maeda, 11 Tomoya Yamamura, 10 Taisetsu Kanai, 9 Daiki Nakajima, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Masato Furukawa, 6 Faulua Makisi, 5 Daichi Akiyama, 4 Tatsunari Fujita, 3 Shosuke Tashiro, 2 Yoshiaki Takeuchi, 1 Ryosuke Iwaihara.
Subs: 16 Ken Saito, 17 Keiichi Kaneko, 18 Taku Toma, 19 Ryo Inoue, 20 Taichi Mano, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Soki Watanabe, 23 Ren Takano.
Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images