Junior Springboks urged to ‘control emotions’ on attack in World Cup opener

Jurenzo Julius (centre) will hope to spark the Junior Springboks’ attack against Fiji on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Jurenzo Julius (centre) will hope to spark the Junior Springboks’ attack against Fiji on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 27, 2024


A recurring theme of the Junior Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign was their lack of finishing in the red zone, and it’s something that is being addressed ahead of Saturday’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship opener against Fiji.

The Junior Boks will hope that the dry conditions expected at Cape Town Stadium (7pm start) at the weekend will work in their favour, after negotiating slippery conditions in Australia last month.

The South Africans drew 13-13 against New Zealand, lost 24-19 to Australia and beat Argentina 30-28 to finish second in the Rugby Championship, but are aiming to go all the way in the ‘World Cup’ on home soil.

They finished third in last year’s tournament in the Western Cape after losing to Ireland in the semi-finals.

The Junior Boks – captained by Western Province tighthead prop Zachary Porthen – certainly possess some lethal attackers in the shape of Sharks centre Jurenzo Julius, WP fullback JC Mars and Springbok Sevens-contracted speedster Joel Leotlela.

They will hope that the forwards, who include Bulls senior lock JF van Heerden and powerful Sharks flank Batho Hlekani, can get over the advantage line first before unleashing the backs.

“We sat and reflected on those missed opportunities (in the Rugby Championship), and also had chats about what we could’ve done better,” Junior Bok assistant coach Lumumba Currie said this week.

“We want to put ourselves in those scenarios and design our training sessions so that the guys can make decisions under pressure.

“What was good was how they were able to self-correct, taking responsibility for their shortfalls.

“I’m pleased with what we have done so far, being able to have a conversation about the game, as they know this opportunity comes once.

“These were big players in their schools and when they get into our programme, we try to bring them back down to earth.

“To perform at an international level, these are the things you need to do, have a low error rate, control your emotions ... You can get carried away easily if you score one or two tries and then you think you’ve got the game.

“You need to keep yourself in the game and not trail by more than seven points at any stage. In their excitement, you can make the wrong decisions.”

Fiji are renowned for their all-out attacking style, and come into the tournament having beaten Tonga, Moana Pasifika and Samoa in the Oceania Under-20 Championships earlier this year.

If they can achieve parity up front, they have the firepower in the backline to cause an upset.

“They’re a big team. I’ve watched a couple of Fiji Drua games. They’ve got a big pack. We know that the Pacific Islanders like to express themselves with ball in hand, and their under-20s are no different,” Currie said.

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“We need to stick to our plans, which is to get our set piece functioning, and we believe that will give us better opportunities to win the game.

“They are not a team that back off, so you’ve got to stay in the game. They are quite a good side and played in that New Zealand competition, many of whom play for the Highlanders and Hurricanes.

“It’s going to be tough, but it’s important for us to start well and be in the best possible position to progress from our pool.”

Junior Springbok Schedule

Saturday: Fiji, 7pm, Cape Town Stadium

Thursday July 4: Argentina, 7pm, Danie Craven Stadium

Tuesday July 9: England, 7pm, Athlone Stadium

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