Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux has made six changes to his side to face hosts France in their last pool-stage game of the World Rugby Under-20 Championships today (kickoff 9 pm, SS 1).
Following injuries to backs Damian Willemse and Muller du Plessis, Roux has brought in a couple of new faces for the clash in Narbonne. Wandisile Simelane – who scored a hat-trick when he started in the No 13 jersey against Ireland (and moved to wing later in the match) – will start on the left wing in the place of Du Plessis, while Lubabalo Dobela will get his first start of the competition when he runs out at flyhalf.
Simelane’s switch sees Manuel Rass start in the midfield with Lyle Hendricks, while flanker PJ Steenkamp will join Dian Schoonees and Muller Uys in the loose trio. Ruan Vermaak will partner up with captain Salmaan Moerat at lock. The other change in the starting line-up is at hooker, where Schalk Erasmus comes in for Daniel Jooste, who suffered a rib injury at training on Tuesday.
On the bench, front-rower Tiaan van der Merwe and flyhalf David Coetzer will make their World Rugby U20 Championship debuts. Roux is expecting a physical encounter against the French in front of their home crowd and said: “It is a big challenge to face the host nation. They will be passionate and so will their supporters, and as a team they are big and strong. But we are looking forward it, and we are excited about the match.”
In terms of performance, Roux said that it was crucial that they go the full 80 minutes. And along with a couple of other points, Roux couldn’t have set a better goal for their date with the French. Against Georgia, it looked like South Africa would be in for another Springboks-Japan shocker, only this time it would have been the juniors and the underdog victors would have been Georgia. And when the Junior Boks were reduced to 14 men in the second half due to a yellow card, that disappointing prospect started to look like an even bigger worry.
The Georgians – who the Junior Boks had faced and beaten convincingly in two warm-up matches before their departure to France – led 17-12 after they had put the Junior Boks under sustained pressure in the first half. But Roux’s men managed to run in some good tries and secure the win. Against Ireland at the weekend, the Junior Boks again felt the pressure, although they led 12-10 at the break. But they tidied up in the third quarter and looked a much-improved unit, and that was enough to prevent a hungry Irish outfit from getting a positive result after their earlier loss to France.
“I think we are moving in the right direction, and getting better as the tournament progresses, although we still haven’t played to our full potential. The important thing will be to put in a proper 80-minute performance, as opposed to playing in patches,” said Roux.
Junior Springboks to face France
15 Gianni Lombard 14, Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Lyle Hendricks, 11 Wandisile Simelane, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Muller Uys, 7 PJ Steenkamp, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Ruan Vermaak, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 David Coetzer, 23 Sihle Njezula.