The SA U19s fought to a morale-boosting 28-21 victory in the first of two tour games against Georgia U19 in Tbilisi on Monday.
Making the victory even more rewarding was the fact that the South Africans received three yellow cards in the match, which had them playing with 14 men for 30 of the 80 minutes.
The first half was hard fought as both teams threw everything at one another on attack and stood firm on defence, but Georgia’s two penalty goals and two tries – one of which was converted – to only two converted tries by the SA U19s, allowed the home side to sneak into an 18-14 lead shortly before half time.
Chean Roux’s charges hit back after the break to add two converted tries, taking their tally in the match to four, while they limited the hosts to one penalty goal.
‘It was a tough game, especially in the windy and cold conditions, which the players are not used to,’ said Roux. ‘But our defence held well, and we managed to keep them out over several phases.
‘That said, the score wasn’t the most important aspect of the match for us. It was more the opportunity to assess the players and to get to know them better under tough circumstances. And it certainly says a lot about their character.’
With a second matchup lined up against Georgia on Thursday, Roux said: ‘The areas we need to work on going forward are our discipline – we cannot afford to get three yellow cards – and our penalty count, as we conceded almost 15 penalties in the match.
‘But this is a learning process. Most players met one another for the first time last week Monday, and it is pleasing to see how things are coming together.
‘With regard to injuries, it doesn’t look like we have any serious concerns, but we will look to make a few changes for the next match.’
Georgia U19: 21 – Tries: Saba Kuratashvili, Giorgi Margaltadze. Conversion: Lasha Lomidze. Penalties: Lomidze (3).
SA U19: 28 – Tries: Werner Gouws, Zwelendaba Mnombo, JJ Kotze, Bernard van der Linde. Conversions: Jaden Hendrikse (2), Juan Mostert (2).