CAPE TOWN – Junior Springbok captain, Phendulani Buthelezi, says they owe it to themselves and the country to finish the World Rugby Under-20 Championship on a winning note in their third-place play-off against Argentina tomorrow.
Chean Roux’s team's semi-final defeat to France on Tuesday crashed their hopes of making the final of the international tournament for the first time since 2014 - when they suffered a one-point defeat to England.
The loss was especially disappointing considering how good the Baby Boks looked in their final pool game against New Zealand. Despite three yellow cards, the South Africans went into the semis as the only unbeaten team in the championship.
And while things have been “hard” for them since crashing out of cup contention, Buthelezi said they’re going to have to focus and stick to the plan against the hosts.
“Losing the game against France was not what we had planned, and it has been a tough time for us as a squad since, especially since we worked very hard to get to the final stages of the competition,” said Buthelezi. “But as hard as the last two days have been for us, we realise we still have a big task at hand playing in the third and fourth place play-off against Argentina on Saturday.
“We had a look at the game against France, and the biggest thing that let us down was that we did not execute the game plan."
The Junior Springboks are back on the training field in Rosario and ready to give their all with the @WorldRugby U20 Championship bronze playoff against Argentina ahead on Saturday! #WorldRugbyU20s @Springboks pic.twitter.com/bNAXMVMgcA— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) June 20, 2019
“We wanted to get the ball in our flyhalf’s hands more and make them turn around as the conditions were very wet. But we placed a lot of pressure on ourselves through our errors, while France capitalised on our mistakes and got points from it.
“So we know exactly where we went wrong, and we will make sure we prepare well for the next match and try to at least finish in third place.
“We have put in a huge amount of hard work over the last six months, and we owe it to ourselves and our country to go out there and give it our all.
“It is going to be a tough match, especially with Argentina playing in front of a passionate home crowd. They are going to push hard for the third-place finish, just as we are, so we will do our best to put the semi-final behind us and make sure we are prepared physically and mentally for the game because we really want to go out there and make our country proud.”
The clash between the Junior Springboks and Argentina kicks off at 6pm (SA time) tomorrow at the Racecourse Stadium, and will be followed by the final between Australia and France.@WynonaLouw