It is true that it is not gold or silver, but the Junior Springboks can hold their heads high after winning the bronze medal at World Rugby’s o. 20 championship won.
It was the ninth time that the Junior Boks finished third in the tournament. But it was the first time this year that their full potential really emerged when they beat England 22 – 15 in the play-off for third place at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town.
It was much better than against Ireland and Italy, games that the Junior Boks both lost. It was also better than the victories over Georgia and Argentina, which saw the young South Africans at least reach the play-offs, but then fell short against the Irish.
Perhaps the expectations before the tournament were too great that they would be crowned champions a second time on home soil. Perhaps the players struggle to shake off the established successful playing patterns of school teams such as Gray College, Paarl Gymnasium, HJS Paarl, Garsfontein and Affies and try to play like the Springboks too soon.
In the Junior Goats’ first few games there were quite a few hiccups and sometimes the Junior Goats would rely too much on physical play to gain the upper hand, while their scrum work and defense were under suspicion.
Against England they managed the game better, their defense and decision-making were much better and they stifled England in errors.
Iron forwards such as Corné Beets, Hennie Sieberhagen, the captain, Paul de Villiers, Tiaan Wessels, Coetzee le Roux and Juann Else thrived and at the back talented players such as Regan Izaks, Katlego Letebele, Jean Smith and Niel le Roux have more to their credit came.
In the battle for the gold medal, the French came out on top against Ireland and won 50 – 14 with sparkling rugby.
One hopes it is not a harbinger, but rugby in France is experiencing a golden period. This does not bode well for the other teams in the World Cup in two months in France.
Remember that this was the young Roosters’ third consecutive tournament victory and that they have now emulated the Junior All Blacks.
Junior Bokke 22 (22): Tries: Hennie Sieberhagen, Corné Beets, Juann Else. Goals: Jean Smith (2). Penalty Goal: Smith.
England 15 (15): Tries: Craig Wright, Zach Carr. Goals: Connor Slevin. Penalty Goal: Slevin.
— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) July 14, 2023
Other results: Final: France 50, Ireland 22.
Playoff for third place: SA 22, England 15.
Play-off for fifth place: Australia 57, Wales 33.
Playoff for seventh place: New Zealand 50, Georgia 26.
Playoff for ninth place: Argentina 43, Fiji 22.
Play-off for 11th place: Italy 45, Japan 27.