CAPE TOWN - Junior Springbok assistant coach, Bafana Nhleko, says they’re going to have to make a “massive step-up” from their performance against Georgia as they shift their focus to Ireland, who they’ll meet in their second match of the World Rugby Under-20 Championships on Sunday (kick-off 4.30 pm SA time).
The Junior Boks had to produce a second-half fightback against the Georgians - who led 17-12 at half time - after a number of errors, poor decision-making and just an overall failure to take control of the game in the first half against a determined Georgian outfit.
They were better in the second half, and although they were one man down at one stage when replacement prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye was yellow carded for a late tackle, they ran in three good tries to secure the tight 33-27 win before they face their other Pool C opponents, Ireland and hosts France, on Sunday and Thursday.
And while Nhleko is pleased just to have got the win, he added that they will have to learn from their opener as they prepare for their next challenge.
“The most important thing is that we got the result against Georgia,” Nhleko said looking back at Wednesday’s match.
“It was obviously not how we wanted to play, especially the way we started in the first half with the handling errors and some disciplinary issues that might have let us down. But we still left a lot of opportunities out there.”
“We created chances, but our decision-making at the best of times didn’t go our way. If we were patient and earned the rewards from our initial efforts, it may have boosted our confidence and changed the game.”
“That said, it is something we can learn from going forward.”
In one of the other fixtures on Wednesday, Ireland suffered a 24-26 defeat to France, and Nhleko believes Ireland’s disappointment will act as their fuel as the pressure to win their next fixture (against the Junior Boks) intensifies.
The Junior Springboks currently top Pool C on points difference, as France also earned a bonus point win against Ireland.
The top team in each of the three pools will qualify for the semi-finals along with the next best-placed team in the competition.
And it’s that desperation from Ireland that Nhleko says they should be careful of.
“Ireland will be very desperate,” said Nhleko. “They lost by two points yesterday (Wednesday). But we were not at our best against Georgia either, so we need to make a massive step-up.
“In a sense it is going to be semi-final for one side and a final for the other because every game is important in this tournament. And how a team moves on with a short turnaround means a lot.”