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PREVIEW: Junior Boks look to expose England’s weaknesses in semi-final later today

By Marc Jacobson - Jun 13, 2017
PREVIEW: Junior Boks look to expose England’s weaknesses in semi-final later today

The Junior Springboks, after enacting a 72-14 obliteration over Argentina on Thursday in what was an effective quarter-final, have evidently self-explored some set strides heading into their semi-final clash against England at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on Tuesday (16:00 SA time).

South Africa played for a top two finish in their Pool C group of the World Rugby U20 Championship, which they achieved with flying colours after a shaky start to the campaign.

After drawing 23-23 against France in a much-unconvincing outing in wet weather on day one, the Junior Boks had some unticked boxes at their disposal if they were looking to be potential competition threats.

They improved in many facets, but still lacked the forward brute that has staked SA rugby in its history, when they powered to a 38-14 victory over hosts Georgia two weekends ago.

Their backline looked to be their real strengths heading into their group-deciding clash against Argentina, but it was an all-round polished performance that lead to their massacring victory.

Argentina, in many views, were even deemed to be favourites, after they were on their way to victory against France, but a late conceded penalty lead to an after-time death try, which lost them the game by one point.

On the day, South Africa suddenly improved in all forward-play, including their line-outs which was their deeming weakness, while also gaining much ascendency at scrum time against a nation that prides themselves in that set-piece.

Not to mention that the Junior Boks’ back-line again fired in all cylinders, as South Africa romped to an 11-try to two demolition, which included two tries apiece from outside back Gianni Lombard and hooker Cornelis Grobbelaar.

On Tuesday late-afternoon, the Junior Boks will take on England, who has been the breeding gateway for future talent over the last couple of years, since winning three of the last four World Rugby U20 Championships.

South Africa last met England also in the semi-finals of 2016’s tournament in Manchester, but the Junior Boks were grimly outclassed 39-17 on that occasion, followed by a 49-19 slump to Argentina in the third/fourth place play-off.

This time round, England have evidently looked to decline since their first match in 2017’s edition, while the South Africans looked to endeavour an upward ascendency, but not taking away from the English that they have not lost a World Championship U20 game since 2015’s Final against New Zealand.

This means England have now won eight World Championship games on the trot, and South Africa will be very weary of the threats they oppose. The English were somewhat fortunate to overcome Australia in their do-or-die Pool A clash, after ill-discipline cost Australia in the last minutes.

The Junior Boks will look to feed off of England, what Australia just did not manage to, and the game can be an enticing one.

South Africa Head Coach, Chean Roux, describes the clash as a “big game for them” specifically, and has chosen a line-up to accentuate their strengths against England on the day.

“We looked at England’s strengths and we think these are the best combinations for us for the semi-final,” Roux said.

“England are a physical side and they are full of confidence. They are the defending champions as well. But that said, our plans are in place as a team and we just need to go out there and execute it,” he added.

New Zealand are set to take on South Africa’s pool runners-up, France in the other semi-final at 18:30 SA time.

Junior Springboks match-23 to take on England later today:

15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Gianni Lombard, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 6 Len Massyn, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Kwenzo Blose

Substitutes: 16 Gerhard Steenekamp, 17 Daniel Jooste, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Francois de Villiers, 22 Stedman Gans, 23 Jean-Luc Cilliers

Image: Junior Springbok flyhalf, Curwin Bosch, in action against Argentina on Thursday.