Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron will not be reading too much into Baby Blacks coach Rob Penney’s words ahead of Friday’s IRB Junior World Championship final clash.
Heading into the titanic showdown, which sees South Africa attempt to clinch their very first IRB Under-20 title, Penney was quick to reveal his side’s vulnerabilities.
“We’re not running on six cylinders and we certainly have not hit our straps yet,” he said.
New Zealand came into this year’s competition unbeaten in four years.
With a 63-0 thrashing over Samoa in their opening match, the Baby Blacks quickly gave the impression that nothing had changed.
That was until a 9-6 reverse to a courageous Welsh outfit, which saw them not only lose their unbeaten run, but also their aura of invincibility.
“We took a knock against Wales and we’re struggling to get back on track, so we’re certainly not in a position to say we can attack this final with full confidence,” said Penney.
A loss against the sixth-best side in the world could’ve very well knocked the Baby Blacks’ confidence.
However, in the play-offs, the New Zealanders quickly silenced any Welsh belief that they had narrowed the gap between themselves and the world’s top rugby nation.
The Baby Blacks ran rampant over Wales with a 30-6 win, a feat that would make it very hard for anybody to believe that they’re “struggling”, taking into consideration Wales’ fine form in this year’s Cup.
In comparison to Penney, Theron was more honest about what his side’s one stumble meant for the team heading into the final.
“Ironically, if we look back, I’d say the loss to Ireland was the best thing that happened to us.”
Suffering a loss to Ireland in the opening match had raised much concern, with pundits questioning Theron’s capability of leading this team. “That loss really made us question our structures and I believe that the decisions we took from that point on played a major role in us becoming a strong team,” he added.
A change in structure and a few shuffles to the team haven’t hurt his future prospects. And following the turn-around after the Ireland loss, Theron and company now have the opportunity to secure the Baby Boks their first title since 2005.
Kick-off: 6.45pm at Newlands – Cape Argus