CAPE TOWN – Is Chean Roux the right man to coach the Junior Springboks? And have SA Rugby done enough to help them succeed?
If you look at the Junior Boks’ results at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship over the years, there’s nothing to get too worked up about. They’ve won the tournament just once (back in 2012 when we hosted it), while the only other final they played in was in 2014 against England.
Other than that, they’ve mostly claimed third place at the international showpiece, bar 2011 and 2016, where they finished fifth and fourth, respectively.
Last year they ended in third place again after losing to England by one point in the semi-final in France.
It was a narrow defeat, but what should have really hit home is the fact that it was their fifth straight defeat to England, while they were also embarrassed by France in their final pool game.
How does it make any kind of sense for SA to do so well at U18 level, but the U20s just can’t seem to get there?
Last season, Roux was confident that their preparations ahead of the junior spectacle were sufficient. This year, their preparation phase included losses to an England side missing 10 of their regular U20 Six Nations squad members, while they also lost to Argentina at home. They secured wins over Namibia, Georgia and Wales.
Last season they won all four of their pre-season games, including one against England. So, it’s understandable that Roux was confident ahead of the championship then. This year it’s a different story, though, there’s nothing to be confident about. So, what are we in for in Argentina next month?
Last season they had the likes of Manny Rass, Salmaan Moerat, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Muller Uys, Phendulani Buthelezi, Tyrone Green, Wandisile Simelane and Gianni Lombard in the squad ... yet they failed to go the full distance, again.
So, what’s the deal?
Something that struck me last season was how their style changed as the competition progressed and some dubious selection calls by Roux.
In their semi against England in particular, they seemed boxed in.
Rugby logic went out the window as the Baby Boks looked as though they were working under a strict “don’t play rugby” instruction.
Pick-and-drives and driving mauls had never been as frustrating. After all, this was the approach from a side with dangerous attacking weapons, weapons who seemed to be a mere accessory to the greater “finals rugby” mentality.
In terms of selections, Roux went the bizarre route when he moved his standout player, outside centre Simelane, to the wing.
They went from satisfying efforts in the pool stages to a series of “why” moments when it mattered.
Yes, Roux isn’t the only Junior Bok coach who’s been unable to win gold, but he hasn’t helped them progress either.
Also, if SA Rugby haven’t felt prompted before to get to the bottom of the Junior Boks’ championship draught, then their pre-season results should have done just that.
The Junior Springboks are back in Cape Town after their UK tour, and will return to the training field on Friday as they look to finetune their game ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship. Read more here: https://t.co/x81YBcSXOi pic.twitter.com/dHEIK4VtSY— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) May 2, 2019
While the buck stops with Roux, SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus should see their recent performances as a good reason to find a remedy to the Junior Boks’ long-time ailments.
It’s about time.@WynonaLouw