The Junior Springboks clinched a 33-27 victory against Georgia in the opening match of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Perpignan on Wednesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
South Africa beat the Georgians 38-14 at last year’s tournament, while the most recent clashes between the sides – two warm-ups in April – also resulted in convincing wins for the green and gold.
Considering the boundless talent and unrivalled experience in this Junior Boks squad, a similar outcome was expected here. But while the result eventually went the South Africans’ way, it was a much tougher task.
Georgia dominated the first half, winning the scrum contest and the aerial battle, while the Junior Boks looked well off the pace and devoid of ideas. They made 10 handling errors to Georgia’s four and trailed 17-12 at the break.
But South Africa produced a significantly improved second-half performance to get past the plucky Georgians.
Wandisile Simelane seems like he can’t get enough of Georgia. The centre, who scored four tries in his previous two games against them, opened the scoring in this clash with an unconverted try.
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Georgia hit back with a 10-point haul via a penalty and a great try which saw flyhalf Tedo Abzhandadze’s grubber kick chased down by outside centre Lasha Lomidze.
South Africa would regain the lead when Muller Uys crashed over. The Junior Boks set a driving maul, which Georgia didn’t engage. However, none of their defenders came around the maul, allowing their opponents – and Muller Uys – free passage towards the line.
Georgia simply refused to back down. Their relentless defensive pressure pinned the Junior Boks in their 22. Damian Willemse was caught in possession well behind the gainline and while he did well to get the ball away to Rikus Pretorius, the centre’s hurried follow-up pass was intercepted by winger Deme Tapladze for a converted try that gave his team a 17-12 advantage at the break.
The Junior Boks came out fighting in the second half and threatened to run away with it, but the Georgians frustratingly kept on coming back at them.
Wonderful determination and a stroke of luck saw winger Tyrone Green dot down soon after the resumption when he charged down a clearance kick inside the in-goal area and collected the rebound to score.
Scrumhalf Zak Burger and Uys scored South Africa’s fourth and fifth tries either side of a penalty for Georgia to make it 33-20 with 25 minutes remaining.
South Africa then had two tries disallowed, one because of a double movement and the other because of obstruction in the build-up.
And when the Junior Boks were reduced to 14 men in the 70th minute, Georgia were in with a real chance to cause an upset.
Replacement scrumhalf Luka Dvalishvili dashed over to cut the deficit to six. But luckily for the Junior Boks, they were able to hold onto possession and control the territorial battle in the last five minutes to secure the victory and spare their blushes.
Junior Boks – Tries: Wandisile Simelane, Muller Uys (2), Tyrone Green, Zak Burger. Conversions: Damian Willemse (4).
Georgia – Tries: Lasha Lomidze, Deme Tapladze, Luka Dvalishvili. Conversions: Gela Aprasidze (2), Tedo Abzhandadze. Penalties: Aprasidze (2).
Junior Boks – 15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Sihle Njezula, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Muller Uys, 7 JP Steenkamp, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Ruan Nortjie, 4 Salmaan Moerat (c), 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Daniel Jooste, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ben-Jason Dixon, 20 Ruan Vermaak, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Lubabalo Dobela, 23 Lyle Hendricks.
Georgia – 15 Beka Mamukashvili, 14 Deme Tapladze, 13 Sandro Svanidze, 12 Lasha Lomidze, 11 Otar Dzagnidze, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Arsen Machaladze, 7 Tengiz Gigolashvili, 6 Tornike Jalaghonia, 5 Lasha Jaiani, 4 Beka Saghinadze (c), 3 Luka Japaridze, 2 Levan Papidze, 1 Guram Gogichashvili.
Subs: 16 Tengiz Zamtaradze, 17 Giorgi Nutsubidze, 18 Gia Kharaishvili, 19 Luka Gelashvili, 20 Archil Abesadze, 21 Luka Dvalishvili, 22 Temur Tchitchinadze, Mikheil Alania.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) May 30, 2018