Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron has played his first card ahead of Friday’s much-anticipated IRB Junior World Championship final against New Zealand by recalling captain Wian Liebenberg at the expense of star flank Shaun Adendorff.
The Blue Bulls No 6 has been one of the outstanding players of the tournament, verified by his nomination for IRB Junior Player of the Year Award. It is a major gamble and could backfire on Theron.
Here are five ways the Baby Boks can win tonight’s final ...
1. Countering the haka
It will be the first time that many of these Baby Boks will be facing the legendary haka, and despite brave words and bravado, it is an intimidating experience. It starts with the chants, where the Baby Blacks will call on the spirits of their Maori ancestors, before moving to a slit-throat action that sends chills down even the biggest of men. If not adequately prepared, the Baby Boks could take a few minutes to gather themselves once the game has started, which could just give the Kiwis that headstart they desperately crave.
2. Deal with home pressure
Cape Town has been agog with Baby Bok fever this week, and people have rushed down to the ticket outlets so that they can join the gees that is set to take over Newlands at 6.45pm. Besides the 25 000-plus spectators present, there will be thousands more glued to their television sets at home to see if Dawie Theron’s side can finally end New Zealand’s dominance of this event. It is a spotlight these young men will not have experienced in their lives before, although Theron says “we see it as positive pressure”.
3. Find the balance
Finals have a way of doing silly things to even the most experienced players, and this could affect the way the Baby Boks play. While there will be rain about, which would grease up the surface, the home side cannot go into ultra-conservative mode like they did in their opening defeat to Ireland at Stellenbosch. South Africa have some electrifying backs like Handré Pollard, Jan Serfontein, Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds who have shown their worth over the last couple of games. Pollard’s educated boot, though, cannot be discounted, especially if the conditions rapidly deteriorate.
4. Will the real Steven Kitshoff please stand up?
The Stormers sensation has been a disappointment at this year’s IRB World Junior Championship. Highly touted ahead of the event on the basis of his excellent displays in Super Rugby this year, Kitshoff has failed to live up to his billing. The ginger-haired prop has steadily improved since being substituted at halftime against Ireland, but his team will be counting on a big showing from him.
5. Execution of basics
No matter fancy running lines or angles, the backs cannot weave their magic without the ball. And this is where precision to detail becomes of paramount importance to the Baby Boks. The home team’s lineout has consistently struggled in this tournament, and the scrum has come under pressure at times. Both these facets have to be spot-on, especially as South Africa saw the benefit of a functioning lineout when hooker Mark Pretorius crashed over for a try in the semi-final against Argentina after firstly finding his lineout jumper to set up a rolling maul from five metres out.
Previous four IRB JWC finals
Wales 2008: New Zealand 38 England 3, Japan 2009: New Zealand 44 England 28, Argentina 2010: New Zealand 62 Australia 17, Italy 2011: New Zealand 33 England 22.
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Kobus van Wyk, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Tshotsho Mbovane, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Wian van der Watt, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Pieter Steph du Toit, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Oliver Kebble, 19 Braam Steyn, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Abrie Griesel, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Travis Ismaiel.
New Zealand team not available. Kickoff: 6.45pm. TV: SS1/SS HD/CSN. – Cape Times