Baby Boks surge into JWC semis
12 Jun 2012
GARETH DUNCAN watched the Baby Boks deliver a miracle second-half performance to beat England 28-15 in a crucial Junior World Championship encounter at the Cape Town Stadium.
With England leading 3-0 at half-time after a dire performance from the Baby Boks in the opening 40, it looked like the hosts’ chances of recording the needed bonus-point win for a place in the semi-finals was shattered.
However, a rejuvenated showing after the break saw the SA U20s score four tries in an impressive all-round effort. While their lineout efficiency was poor throughout the match, their scrums strengthened, their backline play became threatening and they started gelling like a team instead of depending on individual brilliance, which has been the case for most parts of their campaign.
Flank Shaun Adendorff grabbed a brace, while outside centre William Small-Smith and flank Pieter Steph du Toit completed the successful mission. Flyhalf Handre Pollard also slotted all the conversions.
The Baby Boks finally showed their true potential against quality opposition. And their reward is a place in the final four – a fairy tale turnaround following a poor 23-19 defeat to Ireland on the opening day. It’s also a result that has probably saved head coach Dawie Theron’s job.
Outstanding. Dramatic. Well deserved. Words one wouldn’t have used to describe the victors before the second half.
The first stanza was a frustrating period for the hosts. While they created chances early on, a lack of composure, poor handling errors and erratic decision making saw them fall short on every occasion.
Defence was the only positive part of their game as the home team did very well to keep England out on several occasions, with wing Paul Jordaan’s cover tackling and Adendorff’s pilfering at the breakdowns being the highlights. Last year’s losing finalists won the ascendancy with a strong, physical showing from their pack, but they couldn’t find the killer punch to cross the chalk.
The tourists had to settle for a penalty from fullback Tommy Bell, which was enough to secure a three-point advantage at half-time.
Then came the extraordinary finish.
Stand-in captain Small-Smith benefited from a smart inside pass from centre partner Jan Serfontein to score a runaway try from centre field. Adendorff then powered over from close range to make it two tries for the SA U20s inside seven minutes. It was a perfect start to the second half, and set the tone for what followed.
England hit back through a series of Bell penalties, but this did little to stop the Baby Boks’ momentum. Du Toit, who was a colossal feature in the loose trio, burst through to score early in the final quarter, before Adendorff snatched the all-important fourth try 12 minutes from the final whistle.
It was a match that not only proved that this Baby Boks outfit has the makings of a champion side when driving at full throttle, but also showed that the Cape Town Stadium can be a wonderful host venue for rugby. The administrators at Western Province should take note.
The Baby Boks will now face Argentina in their knockout fixture at Newlands on Sunday, the same opponents they beat 2-0 in a warm-up series several weeks ago.