The Junior Boks claimed a scrappy 33-5 bonus-point win over Italy in their opening U20 Championship game in Calvisano on Tuesday.
The sides were evenly poised for the majority of the match, but ill-discipline and poor defence was the hosts’ undoing, with the Junior Boks outscoring them five tries to one in the end.
Italy opened the scoring when winger Yannick Agbasse ran in a try against the run of play. A promising Junior Boks attack was halted with good counter-rucking and Agbasse was on hand to run the length of the field and finish off.
Dawie Theron’s side replied soon after, when hooker Jan van der Merwe went over from the back of a driving maul. And they hit the front with flyhalf Brandon Thomson’s touchline conversion.
The team who finished last in the U20 Six Nations earlier this year, dominated territory and possession but were unable to convert it into points. In contrast, the visitors landed a double blow in the space of two minutes while No 4 lock Davide Zanetti was serving time in the sin bin for foul play. A penalty try and a score from captain Hanro Liebenberg stretched the Junior Boks' lead to 21-5 at the break.
There wasn't any improvement in play in the second half, as both sides came across as disjointed on attack and the only points came in the final quarter when flank Rikus Botha and reserve prop Frans van Wyk scored the Junior Boks' fourth and fifth tries to put some gloss on the win.
However, scoreline notwithstanding, the Junior Boks were heavily penalised at the breakdown area and struggled in the lineouts and scrums and will have to turn things around before they face Samoa on Saturday.
Junior Boks – Tries: Jan van der Merwe, penalty try, Hanro Liebenberg, Rikus Bothma, Frans Wyk. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3), Tinus de Beer.
Italy – Try: Yannick Agbasse.
Junior Springboks – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Khanyo Ngcukana, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 JT Jackson, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Rikus Bothma, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Abongile Nonkontwana, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Jan van der Merwe, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Njabulo Gumede, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Malcolm Jaer.
Italy – 15 Giacomo De Santis, 14 Yannick Agbasse, 13 Pietro Lamar, 12 Matteo Gabbianelli, 11 Tommaso Beraldin, 10 Maicol Azzolini, 9 Matteo Ferrari, 8 Matteo Cornelli, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Ugo D’Onofrio, 4 Davide Zanetti, 3 Andrea Cincotto, 2 Luhandre Luus, 1 Paulo Buonfiglio.
Subs: 16 Edoardo Ferraro, 17 Federico Pavesi, 18 Dino Dallavalle, 19 Samuele Ortis, 20 Matteo Archetti, 21 Riccardo Raffaele, 22 Matteo Minozzi, 23 Luca Sperandio.
New Zealand 68 Scotland 10
Australia 34 Samoa 22
England 59 Japan 7
France 19 Wales 10
Ireland 18 Argentina 16
Photo: Junior Boks/Twitter