Louis Koen during the South Africa training session. Photo: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Junior Springboks assistant coach Louis Koen is pleased that the team managed to find their rhythm in a “hostile environment” to beat World Rugby Under-20 Championship hosts Georgia 38-14 on Sunday.

After a 23-all opening draw against U20 Six Nations runners-up France, the Baby Boks had a slow start against the Georgians at the weekend, and at one stage the scores were tied at seven-all.

Unforced errors and shaky set-pieces tainted the South Africans’ play in the early stages of the game, but things started falling into place in the second quarter, and Chean Roux’s team scored a few brilliant tries to get the win.

And following the coaches’ review of the match on Monday, Koen lauded his team for coming out on top in what he described as a “difficult” environment.

“It was a very difficult and hostile environment for the players at the stadium, and as a team we had a few soft moments in the first half and we didn’t really get much territory in the match. But I have to compliment the leadership on the field,” said Koen.

“The players stuck to our processes despite being level at 7-7 with Georgia early in the second quarter and they remained calm. They also used the opportunities that presented themselves, and showed exceptional skill in their backline play."

And while it was the length-of-the-field tries and the stunning interplay coupled with impressive, swift passes and offloads that got all the attention, the Junior Boks also produced a top effort on defence in the dying minutes to prevent the Georgians from scoring a late consolation try.

“We are very proud of the team. The last 10 minutes was particularly special, as the team showed great character on defence, and that shows that we are growing as a team and getting to where we would like to be slowly but surely,” Koen said.

The Junior Springboks will face Argentina in their final pool match on Wednesday, and while Koen expected a challenging clash, he was confident that the Junior Boks’ high confidence levels following what Koen described as good preparation and, of course, that performance against Georgia would stand them in good stead.

“Looking forward it is good to see that some of the small things we have been working on over the last three months are coming together,” said Koen.

“We will continue to focus on those processes going forward and to be more effective at our implementation because we can still improve a lot.

“That said, when it comes to knock-out rugby I believe we are well prepared. We will play against a very good Argentinian side next, but given the way we are growing as a team, we can enter the match with confidence. That said we need to cut out the soft moments and use the chances that present themselves.”

The top-ranked sides in each of the three pools at the conclusion of the round-robin stage and the highest-ranked second-placed team will advance to the semi-finals, which will be hosted on June 13.

Cape Times

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