JuniorBoks captain Phendulani Buthelezi in action Photo: Chris Ricco / BackpagePix

ROSARIO – Junior Springbok assistant coach Bafana Nhleko was honest in his assessment of the team’s performance in their 48-20 World Rugby Under-20 Championship victory over Georgia in Rosario on Saturday, and said there were a number of things they had to fix going into their final pool match.

The SA Under-20s will line up against New Zealand on Wednesday in the crucial match that will decide which team top Pool C and gains automatic entry into the semifinals. The Junior Boks and the NZ Under-20s are two of only four unbeaten teams left in the competition – defending champions France (Pool A) and Australia (Pool B) are the others.

The three pool winners at the conclusion of the round-robin stages and the next-best placed team in the competition will advance to the semifinals.

After two rounds of matches, the Junior Boks are at the top of the Pool C log with 10 log points after two bonus-point victories – the same as New Zealand have also achieved – but they hold a slender one-point lead in points’ difference over the Kiwis.

But this didn’t cloud Nhleko and the rest of the Junior Springbok coaching team’s judgement of the match against Georgia.

“We are quite happy that we scored eight tries and with the forwards’ showing in the scrums, but we also take pride in our basics and details, so we take it personal that we made so many errors,” said Nhleko.

“Our handling, breakdown play and discipline are massive issues and we were also below average in some of our defensive decision-making. The good thing about the match against Georgia is that it is done. We have to fix those errors, but I believe we will be up for the next game.”

Nhleko said they were satisfied with their position at the top of Pool C log after two rounds: “If you had offered this option to us at the start of the campaign, we would definitely have taken it.

“It is a World Rugby Under-20 Championship so one has to have the mindset that you have to be on top and win your games. We still have one pool game though, and that will be the most important one to determine where we stand in the competition.”

Looking forward to the clash against New Zealand, Nhleko said their focus in the SA Under-20 camp would be on what they had to do to advance to the semifinals.

“We are looking at New Zealand,” said Nhleko. “They are a good outfit and the points’ difference between the two sides is minimal.

“But the biggest focus for us is that if we get things right and do what we know we are capable of, we will hopefully get a positive result.”

The Junior Springboks had a recovery day on Sunday, and will return to the training field on Monday to begin their preparations for the clash against New Zealand.  

African News Agency (ANA)