Junior Springboks coach Chean Roux says his team benefited from playing Scotland, Wales and England on their recent tour. DYLAN JACK reports.
Roux’s side enjoyed a successful visit to the UK, coming away with three victories. The coach told SARugbymag.co.za that the players gained crucial experience on and off the field ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship.
‘We were lucky that SA Rugby had the budget to send us on this tour. What we tried to achieve was to replicate the pool stage [of the Championship]. I think it is one of the most difficult tournaments there is. If you lose one game, you are virtually out of the competition.
‘We tried to replicate that by playing a “Test” every third day along with travelling. The biggest lesson the players learned was life experience. Most of the team hasn’t been overseas, on a long flight or seen how customs work. So that is something they experienced and hopefully, when we get to France, it won’t be new to them and they can focus on the rugby.’
Roux said he was incredibly proud of the way his team performed in their 26-12 win against England in the last game on tour, and the second half in particular.
‘Although England finished second [in the U20 Six Nations], they were unlucky to lose [their third-round match] to Scotland in the final seconds. They are a massive team. But the character we showed was just tremendous.
‘We had to experiment with how we prepared going into that last game against a fresh English side, when our guys were a bit tired. Hopefully, we can use that experience in the tournament.’
The Junior Boks squad for the Championship is a highly experienced one, led by former SA Schools captain Salmaan Moerat. Roux has built his squad around those players.
‘The experience a guy like Salmaan has and his leadership is going to be invaluable. If you look at the six players from last year and the positions that they play – No 2, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 15 – that is the backbone of any side, so we are lucky to have that experience. Us coaches can build a team around that backbone.’
Roux hopes his side is well prepared for a challenging tournament.
‘Hopefully, we have covered all the weaknesses and we are prepared. The thing about weaknesses is that you only realise what they are when you lose a game and things don’t go well. So at this stage, I hope we have covered it all.
‘For us, it is about keeping the players physically and mentally fit. It is really tough over there. The games are so close to each other so we need to keep them mentally prepared.’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images