Juarno Augustus scored a last-gasp try to secure a 23-23 draw for the Junior Boks against France in Wednesday’s opening U20 Championship clash. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Up to the 82nd minute, France looked set to win this encounter after producing a tactically superior performance in wet-weather conditions in Tbilisi, Georgia, with the Junior Boks looking largely disorganised and devoid of ideas.
The French fronted up physically, while nippy No 9 Baptiste Couilloud and pivot Romain Ntamack won the battle of the halfbacks to help establish a 10-point lead for their side, heading into the final quarter.
However, the Junior Boks simply refused to give up, and after winning a late penalty, they set up a lineout, and kept on bashing away at the tryline before Augustus finally barged over to score.
Curwin Bosch flirted with hitting the upright with the relatively simple conversion, but managed to successfully convert the kick to hand South Africa an extremely fortunate share of the spoils.
In many ways, it was a rather schizophrenic first-half performance from the Junior Boks, who started with real intent and powered into a 10-lead after an early try to Augustus, with Bosch slotting the conversion and then a penalty soon after.
It laid an ideal foundation for the SA U20s, but ill-discipline and basic errors blighted proceedings from that point. First, France fullback Romain Buros scored after charging down a poor clearance, while Junior Boks winger Wandisile Simelane was yellow-carded soon after for a cynical trip.
It was a double blow that saw momentum swing firmly in favour of the French, and as they continued to apply plenty of pressure, Junior Boks prop Gerhard Steenkamp was also sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
France immediately made the Junior Boks pay as Florian Dufour went over to score from the back of a driving maul, and in the end, South Africa would have considered themselves rather fortunate to go into the break trailing by just two points.
However, that lead was extended straight after the restart as Baptiste Couilloud darted through some weak defence to score France’s third try and leave the Junior Boks looking well and truly shell-shocked.
And while Bosch did respond with a penalty, two beautifully taken drop goals from opposite number Ntamack ensured Les Bleus opened up a 10-point buffer heading into the final quarter.
Bosch did cut that deficit to seven points with his third penalty in the 63rd minute, and while France looked set to close out the game from there, the dramatic late try by Augustus handed the Junior Boks a draw.
Junior Boks – Tries: Juarno Augustus (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (3).
France U20 – Tries: Romain Buros, Florian Dufour, Baptiste Couilloud. Conversion: Romain Ntamack. Drop goals: Ntamack (2).
Junior Boks – 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 David Brits, 11 Wandisile Simelane, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn (c), 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 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Hendre Stassen, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Francois de Villiers, 22 Damian Willemse, 23 Gianni Lombard.
France U20 – 15 Romain Buros, 14 Lucas Tauzi, 13 Nathan Decron, 12 Pablo Uberti, 11 Faraj Fartass, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Charlie Francoz, 7 Baptiste Pesenti, 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Florian Verhaeghe (captain), 3 Zakaria El Fakir, 2 Florian Dufour, 1 Hassane Kolingar.
Subs: 16 Ugo Boniface, 17 Mauvaka, 18 Daniel Brennan, 19 Alexandre Roumat, 20 Ibrahim Diallo, 21 Arthur Coville, Mathieu Jalibert, Geoffrey Cros.
Photo: Vano Shlamov/Getty Images