Theron lauds ‘big improvement’

Baby Bok head coach Dawie Theron believes his charges showed their true all-round ability in their 52-3 victory over Italy.

It was a big step-up from the SA U20s in Bellville on Friday night. While it did come against easy opposition in Italy, the important thing was that the Baby Boks showed how effective they can be when they execute their game plan effectively.

A strong showing from the forwards laid the platform for the 49-point win as they dominated the scrums and breakdowns This saw the backs thrive as they delivered a clinical performance.

‘I have to compliment the forwards,’ Theron told keo.co.za. ‘Our props Steven Kitshoff and Olivier Kebble are going to be big one day! All the forwards did a superb job, and this was key in the win. [Flyhalf] Handre Pollard also had a special game and he definitely put his hand up.

‘We also handled the ball very well and wisely. We weren’t just running into targets … we took the gaps in between those targets and ran into spaces, which was effective.’

Theron added that this performance lifted the team’s spirits after the opening day 23-19 defeat to Ireland in Stellenbosch: ‘We let ourselves down in the first game. That was very painful. But as a group, we pulled ourselves together.’

While it was a one-sided contest, Theron admitted that there were concerns when it came to their lineout efficiency.

‘If you look back to the game, Italy hardly contested against us in the lineouts. So it was disappointing that we lost ball on our own feed. It was more an issue with the throwing, but we will be working hard on this at training.’

The Baby Boks now head into a must-win encounter against England, which will be played at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday. Victory could give the hosts top spot in Pool B and a place in the semi-finals. Theron revealed that he has a specific plan in place for the crunch match against the U20 Six Nations champions.

‘We know what we have to do – and that is to beat England,’ said Theron. ‘A lot depends on the weather, but we have a specific game plan in place for them. We will take all circumstances into account and train accordingly.’

Captain Wiaan Liebenberg added that another big performance from his fellow forwards will be needed.

‘We are expecting a physical clash against England,’ said Liebenberg. ‘We want to build on our display against Italy and head into our next match with confidence. The scrums and breakdowns will be vital, and we need to have the upper hand to secure front-foot ball.’

By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town