JOHANNESBURG – Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux praised his team’s “tremendous” show of character to secure a 23-23 draw against France with a converted try in the dying seconds of their opening Under-20 World Championship match at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia on Wednesday.
A try in the final minute by No 8 Juarno Augustus and a successful conversion by flyhalf Curwin Bosch saw the teams finish the clash tied at 23-23.
“It was nerve-racking, but I had confidence that we could score in the end,” said Roux. “I knew that if we got ball possession late in the second half we would convert it into points, just as we did in the first half, because we had very little possession in the second half.
“The players showed tremendous character and that is fantastic in a world championship.”
Roux singled out the team’s conditioning as one of the main positives in the match and said they would address the areas of their game that needed to improve in the next few days.
“The positives were that, similarly to some of the warm-up games, we ended on a high note. So I think our superior conditioning pulled us through in the end,” said Roux.
“There will always be negatives if one doesn’t win a match. But I will have a look at the video to see what the negatives are, and we will work on that.”
Augustus opened up the scoring in the second minute with a pick-and-go, and the successful conversion and a subsequent penalty goal by Bosch pushed the team 10-0 up on the scoreboard.
French fullback Romain Buros closed the gap to five points with a charge-down try in the eighth minute.
The opposition capitalised on this as hooker Florian Dufour crossed the chalk in the 28th minute to push his team into a 12-10 lead. The SA U20s, however, absorbed the pressure applied by France well for the rest of the half, and managed to maintain the two-point deficit going into the break.
France struck first in the second half with a try by Baptiste Couilloud, while flyhalf Romain Ntamack slotted back-to-back drop goals.
Bosch kicked two penalty goals for South Africa to trail 23-16 early in the fourth quarter.
The Junior Boks continued to fight until the final minute as they retained possession and applied pressure. A yellow card for France at the death, however, saw them opt for a lineout, and this patience paid off with a try for Augustus, which Bosch converted for the draw.
Junior Springboks 23 – Tries: Juarno Augustus (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (3).
France 23 – Tries: Romain Buros, Florian Dufour, Baptiste Couilloud. Conversion: Romain Ntamack (1). Drop Goals: Romain Ntamack (2).