Junior Springboks bash Fiji to make strong start to World Cup

Junior Springbok lock Bathobele Hlekani made some powerful runs against Fiji at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night. Photo: BackpagePix

Junior Springbok lock Bathobele Hlekani made some powerful runs against Fiji at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 29, 2024


It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but the Junior Springboks opened their World Rugby Under-20 Championship campaign with an emphatic 57-7 victory over Fiji at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.

The South Africans managed to grab eight tries to warm the hearts of the few thousand supporters on a chilly night in the Mother City – and provide some cheer to Mzansi after the Proteas lost the T20 World Cup final by seven runs to India in Barbados yesterday.

While Fiji are renowned for their all-out attacking style, it was their forwards who got stuck in during the early stages as they knocked the Junior Boks back with a couple of ferocious tackles.

They competed hard at the breakdowns too, with No 8 Simon Koroiyadi prominent.

But the home side eventually got going, with the front row of Ruan Swart, Luca Bakkes and captain Zachary Porthen drilling their opponents in the set-piece to earn a series of penalties.

Powerful lock Bathobele Hlekani also put in some memorable charges up the middle to spark the Junior Boks into action, and the white-jersey Fiji wall was eventually breached in the 10th minute by outside centre Jurenzo Julius.

The front-foot ball from the pack allowed SA halfbacks Asad Moos and Liam Koen to dictate terms, and they were able to bring the likes of the hard-running Julius and quicksilver fullback Michail Damon into the game.

Bulls No 15 Damon claimed the second try in the 13th minute that was set up by yet another bustling Hlekani gallop, with Koen – a big unit at flyhalf at 1.92m and 97kg, and the son of former Bok pivot Louis – adding two conversions and a penalty for the 17-0 lead.

The South Africans had to wait 20 minutes to score their next try, and like London buses, two touchdowns came within four minutes as first right wing Joel Leotlela showed some fancy footwork out wide to dance over, and then Julius got his second five-pointer in a flowing attack.

The match was over as a contest at halftime already as the Junior Boks led 31-0, and despite a yellow card to Julius just before the break, South Africa added a fifth try early in the second half through hooker Bakkes.

The Fijians never stopped tackling, though, and were rewarded for their efforts when loosehead prop Anare Caginavanua forced his way over for a try in the 50th minute.

Junior Bok coach Bafana Nhleko introduced a few replacements to get some game-time, and while they didn’t quite find their rhythm, flank Sibabalwe Mahashe crossed the whitewash following a five-metre scrum in the 66th minute – which was closely followed by replacement back Likhona Finca’s try.

Moos capped a fine display with a late dive in the right-hand corner.

But the South Africans will hope that injured replacement back Ezekiel Ngobeni will be okay after going off on a stretcher.

Nhleko, though, will know that some serious work will be required to avoid another slowish start in their next clash against Argentina – who lost 40-21 to England yesterday – in Stellenbosch on Thursday (7pm).

The Junior Boks will finish their Pool C programme against England at the Athlone Stadium on July 9.


South Africa 57 – Tries: Jurenzo Julius (2), Michail Damon, Joel Leotlela, Luca Bakkes, Sibabalwe Mahashe, Likhona Finca, Asad Moos. Conversions: Liam Koen (5), Tylor Sefoor (2). Penalty: Koen (1).

Fiji 7 – Try: Anare Caginavanua. Conversion: Bogidrau Kikau (1).

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