Theron credits Baby Bok forwards, Pollard
23 Jun 2012
Dawie Theron believes the Baby Bok pack and flyhalf Handre Pollard laid the platform for the 22-16 victory over New Zealand in the Junior World Championship final.
While it was a team effort that saw the SA U20s snatch their first Junior World Championship title, their ascendancy was set up by a strong performance from their heavies up front, while the composure and influence from schoolboy flyhalf Handre Pollard was telling.
It was a great step-up from the Baby Bok forwards, who have been inconsisent throughout the tournament. They have carried the ball and defended well for most parts, but their set-piece efficiency was poor overall, especially at the lineouts. However, this wasn’t the case in the final.
They had the upper hand over the Baby Blacks pack in general play and the scrums and lineouts. New Zealand coach Rob Penney admitted that his team struggled against the hosts’ strong driving mauls, while that 5m scrum turnaround in the second half was also a crucial moment.
‘That scrum was a great attacking position for us and we could’ve extended a lead from that platform,’ Penney told keo.co.za. ‘But they drove us back, and went on to score from the resulting penalty. That was a huge moment in the match.’
SA U20 coach Theron echoed Penney’s sentiments, and was relieved that his players thrived with the team structures set.
‘It took a while, but the team finally delivered in the way we planned,’ Theron also told this site. ‘We headed back to the change rooms at half-time, and despite being behind, we knew we had what it took to win this game. The players were up for it and the forwards were massive. They won the momentum up front.’
Pollard, the Paarl Gym schoolboy, also played a key role. He kicked four of his six goal attempts, adding 12 points. His 35m drop goal also came at a crucial stage of the match.
‘I look back to Joel Stranksy’s drop goal in the 1995 World Cup final, and both kicks probably had the same influence,’ said Theron. ‘I was really impressed with the way Handre stepped up since coming into the squad. He was a late injury replacement [for Johan Goosen], but never struggled to settle in. He showed great composure for a teenager.
‘To be fair, he didn’t have an outstanding first half. But the way he controlled in the game in the second half played a big part in the win.’
By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town