Wandisile Simelane scored a hat-trick as the Junior Boks claimed a 30-17 bonus-point win against Ireland at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Narbonne on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
While questions regarding the team’s static attack and wayward goal-kicking still linger, the Junior Boks produced a much improved defensive performance against Ireland, whose championship credentials were irreparably damaged after a second defeat.
Ireland dominated every facet of the game in the first half, but they failed to make inroads early on. Instead, two costly errors allowed South Africa U20 to pounce and score two opportunistic tries.
Ireland’s ferocity and sustained high energy levels were rewarded late in the first half as they reduced the gap to two points and then took the lead soon after the interval. But the Junior Boks blew Ireland away in the final quarter to record an important win.
It came at a cost, however, as flyhalf Damian Willemse left the field on a stretcher after suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury.
Ireland received the first kick-off of the match, but their clearance kick from the base of a ruck was charged down by scrumhalf Zak Burger, who went on to chase down the ball and score a converted try. Ireland continued to boss possession, but when another clearance kick failed to go into touch, South Africa ran the ball back and fullback Gianni Lombard offloaded to wing Muller du Plessis on his outside for a second try.
Ireland clawed their way back, notching up 10 points via a penalty followed by a converted try from captain Caelan Doris before the break to trail 12-10. Ireland could have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time when the Junior Boks were reduced to 14 players. Ireland took a penalty quickly and caught the Junior Boks on their heels. But the South African U20s were let off the hook as wing Sean O’Brien lost control in his attempt to ground the ball.
The numerical disadvantage did count against South Africa in the second half when fullback Michael Silvester benefited from Doris’ barnstorming run in midfield to score a try that put Ireland in front for the first time.
Things went from bad to worse for the Junior Boks when Willemse left the field. But their pack suddenly sparked to life, obliterating Ireland in the scrums and driving mauls. The dominance at those set pieces got the Junior Boks on the front foot and Simelane was the happy recipient of the packs’ excellent work-rate.
Great identification and manipulation of space by Lubabalo Dobela led to Simelane’s first try. The former chipped the ball in behind the defence and Burger gathered possession and sent it wide to Simelane, who did the rest. Moments later, Burger and Simelane combined again. Knowing his team were playing under a penalty advantage from a fantastic lineout drive, Burger pulled off an inch-perfect box kick which Simelane plucked out of the air, right on the tryline, to score.
Ireland’s intensity dropped after conceding that try, while South Africa continued to chip away at the scoreboard with a penalty.
Simelane would finish off the scoring with a swan-dive finish in the corner late in the game to secure the victory.
Junior Springboks – Try: Zak Burger, Muller du Plessis, Wandisile Simelane (3). Conversion: Damian Willemse. Penalty Gianni Lombard.
Ireland – Tries: Caelan Doris, Michael Silvester. Conversions: Conor Dean (2). Penalty: Dean.
Junior Springboks – 15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Lyle Hendricks, 11 Muller du Plessis, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Salmaan Moerat (c), 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Daniel Jooste, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Ruan Vermaak, 20 PJ Steenkamp, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Lubabalo Dobela, 23 Manuel Rass.
Ireland – 15 Michael Silvester, 14 Tom Roche, 13 Tommy O’Brien, 12 James Hume, 11 Sean O’Brien, 10 Conor Dean, 9 Jonny Stewart, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Matthew Agnew, 6 Joe Dunleavy Malone, 5 Jack Dunne, 4 Cormac Daly, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Diarmuid Barron, Jordan Duggan.
Subs: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Bryan O’Connor, 18 Joe Byrne, 19 Charlie Ryan, 20 Aaron Hall, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 James McCarthy.
Photo: Manuel Blondeau/Getty Images