Baby Boks thunder into JWC final
17 Jun 2012
GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Baby Boks’ 35-3 Junior World Championship semi-final victory Argentina at Newlands.
This was the SA U20s’ most convincing performance of the tournament.
Despite several errors on attack and at the lineouts and scrums, they ran in four tries to book a place in the title decider, which will be the team’s first-ever Junior World Championship final appearance. Reserve wing Raymond Ruhle (who got an early run-on as Paul Jordaan limped off with a hamstring injury) starred with a brace. The Free State speedster was unconvincing in his only other outing against Ireland, but he proved in this match that he’s an elusive runner when utilised effectively.
The two other tries were scored by inside centre Jan Serfontein and hooker Mark Pretorius. Flyhalf Handre Pollard – who controlled the game superbly and showed great temperament for a teenager still in matric – slotted five of his six goal attempts. Reserve pivot Tony Jantjies added a penalty.
While the Baby Boks easily outscored the Pumitas, it was their defence and breakdown dominance against a physical pack that was telling.
Argentina struggled to build momentum against the hosts, whose guard was impeccable. Assistant coach Brendan Venter deserves plaudits for setting these structures. They tackled well and their defensive organisation was on point.
Argentina were punted for their grunt up front during the midweek build-up. And rightfully so. It was central in their victories over Australia, France and Scotland during the group phase. They had the upper hand in the set-piece battle and the collisions early on, but this faded during the latter stages of the first quarter.
Once they got their eye in, the Baby Boks’ execution improved and the win was confirmed before the second-half restart. Their ball carries were powerful and their continuity on attack exposed the opposition’s fragile defence.
Following a Pollard three-pointer, Serfontein capitalised on the home team’s gamble of taking a penalty tap in a kickable position. Loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff and lock Paul Willemse sucked in the Argentinean defenders before the No 12 crashed over.
Moments before half-time, Pretorius dotted down after being set up by a strong driving maul before Ruhle showed great pace to break the defensive line and score his first try. The Baby Boks held a 22-0 advantage at the break.
Game, set, match South Africa.
Argentina scored their only points with an early penalty from flyhalf and captain Sebastian Poet. But it was all Baby Bok dominance thereafter. They suffocated Argentina by bossing possession and took the points when the opportunity arose. Ruhle completed his double, while Pollard and Tony Jantjies added nine points from the kicking tee.
Head coach Dawie Theron’s men were inconsistent during the group phase, but it seems they have shifted into fifth gear at the perfect time. They face four-time champions New Zealand in the final – which should be an epic finish to an entertaining tournament.