CAPE TOWN – Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux says it’s crucial that they produce an 80-minute performance in their last World Rugby Under-20 Championship pool game against France on Thursday (kickoff 9pm, SS1).
Along with a couple of other points, Roux couldn’t have set a better goal for their date with the hosts in Narbonne, because performing for 80 minutes has been a bit of a problem for his side.
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 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 loss to France the week before.
“I think we are moving in the right direction as a team, 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.
The Junior Bok mentor made six changes to the team that faced Ireland, with a couple of those being injury-enforced following injury to backs Damian Willemse and Muller du Plessis.
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 Plesiss, 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.
Of France, Junior Bok coach Chean Roux 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.” pic.twitter.com/jahhIXgvXg
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 is 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.”
The Junior Springbok Team is:
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 (captain), 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Bench: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Ruan Nortjé, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 David Coetzer, 23 Sihle Njezula.