Baby Bok heavies need to man up

GARETH DUNCAN says the Baby Boks need a stronger forward showing to repair their Junior World Championship campaign.

There was a lot that went wrong during the Baby Boks’ 23-19 defeat to Ireland in Stellenbosch on Monday. Their set-piece execution was poor, they were inferior in the breakdown battle, there was a lack of spark in the backline, the players panicked during try-scoring opportunities and there were many notable individual errors.

Mass criticism from pundits and on social networks followed – and rightfully so. Considering the individual talent and senior experience among the SA U20s (who are regarded as one of the favourites for the title this year), the mistakes committed and the lack of composure were extremely worrying signs. The fact that the Baby Boks thrashed Ireland 57-15 in 2011 highlights the magnitude of this year’s loss.

However, after close analysis, all these concerns stemmed from a lack of ascendancy up front. The Baby Bok pack was bullied by their Irish counterparts. Even with more possession and more time in the opposition’s half, the SA U20s struggled to capitalise on the back foot.

The statistics show that the Baby Boks conceded three penalties at the scrum and lineouts. They also lost three lineouts on their own feed, including two in the Irish 22m area. Ireland also managed to force eight turnovers, deprived the hosts of quality ball at the breakdown and continuously disrupted at the rucks as they committed more numbers.

This affected the halfback pair and the overall backline play. Flyhalf Jantjies cost his team a try as one of his under pressure clearances was charged down, but he was still impressive all round and influential with the boot. Griesel was below average according to his own standards, but one of his touch finders in the first half was a few centimetres away from a brilliant tactical kick and a potential game-changer. This is a capable halfback combination, one that can thrive with a better platform.

With strong ball-carriers in centres Jan Serfontein and Paul Howard, and dangerous runners in wings Paul Jordaan, Raymond Rhule and Tshotsho Mbovane, and fullback Dillyn Leyds, the Baby Boks need to secure front-foot ball to create better and more opportunities for this dangerous backline.

These are the areas head coach Dawie Theron will need to focus on ahead of the crucial clash against Italy on Friday, and more importantly, the crunch game against England on Tuesday. Their semi-final hopes are still alive, but they can’t afford any more slip-ups.

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