Junior Boks romp into World Champs semis

10 June 2014

After an impressive victory over New Zealand, the Junior Springboks were expected to dominate Samoa at the ECO Light Stadium in Pukekohe on Tuesday in a Pool C clash at the IRB Junior World Championships. It turned out to be a tough encounter.

In the end, South Africa claimed a very difficult 21-8 victory, but it was a below standard showing from Handre Pollard and company.

‘It wasn’t a clinical performance’

“It wasn’t a clinical performance from us, there were a lot of errors,” Pollard said in a post-match interview. “

“We have to rectify that in the semi-finals, but we got the win. That’s all we wanted, to get the two points to go to the semi-finals.”

‘They had great commitment’

The South African captain also praised Samoa for their performance, saying: “They had great commitment all the way through [the game]. Our guys were a bit flat, but we came out better in the second half and got the win.”

Looking ahead to the semi-finals, with South Africa’s opponents not yet determined, Pollard concluded: “We don’t care who we play in the semi-finals. We just want to get there because once you are there anything can happen.”

‘Our boys did their best’

Samoan captain Henry Stowers lauded the effort put in by his team: “Our boys did their best and that’s all I could ask for. I’m just proud of them. We took it to South Africa and we will bounce back from this,” he said.

Beaten 48-12 by New Zealand, the Samoans, surprisingly, took an 8-7 lead into halftime as a below-standard South African first half and wet conditions aided the islanders.

The first 40 minutes were an arm-wrestle and it took a long time for the first points to be scored. When they were at last, they went the way of Samoa in the 32nd minute when Nathaniel Apa dotted down from a charged down clearance off the boot of Jesse Kriel.

Junior Springbok try

Three minutes from the break, Aidon Davis crashed over the tryline for the Junior Boks from a five-metre scrum, with Handre Pollard adding the conversion to give South Africa the lead.

It didn’t last long as William Talaitane Mu knocked over a penalty on the stroke of halftime to edge Samoa in front.

Early in the second half, South Africa butchered a gilt-edged try-scoring opportunity after a lovely break by Pollard. He was caught just short of the tryline, but the passing by the backs, once the ball was freed up and moved right, was poor and the opportunity to take the lead was missed.

Yellow cards

Samoa’s propensity for pushing the limits and for dangerous tackling came back to hurt them, however, as they were forced into playing mostly in their half. They had lost eighthman Richard Mariota to a yellow card for repeated infringements in the loose late in the first half, during which Davis scored for the Junior Springboks. Early in the second half, they lost Apa to another yellow card for a high, swinging arm tackle on Sergeal Petersen.

With Apa watching from the sidelines, South Africa messed up another try-scoring chance when they forced the Samoans back onto their tryline from a set scrum, but Davis knocked on in the act of dotting down.

Samoa celebrated a small victory, but it didn’t come from their brilliance, rather from another Junior Springboks’ error, and the pressure was mounting on them.

Against New Zealand, South Africa had chosen to kick for the corner from penalties on a number of occasions, rather than kick at goal, but when the Samoans gave another one away, Pollard opted for a go at goal. His miss meant the men in green and gold still trailed.

South Africa in the lead

In the 63rd minute, Dawie Theron’s charges at last regained the lead they had held so briefly late in the first half when centre Andre Esterhuizen broke through two tackles after the Junior Boks had fed a lineout inside the islanders’ 22. He crashed over next to the uprights to make it 12-8 to South Africa. Pollard’s successful conversion attempt extended the advantage to 14-8.

Samoa managed to put the Junior Springboks under some pressure in the game’s last five minutes, but the South Africans stood up to the challenge.

Then, with time almost up, the Samoans were made to pay for a loose pass as Petersen rushed up onto the ball, kicked it ahead and fell on it over the tryline. Pollard added the conversion to make the final score South Africa 21, Samoa 8.

It had been a tough contest, during which the Baby Boks were asked many questions. In the end they won to top their pool and secure a place in the semi- finals, but they will know that more work needs to be done before their next match, with a place in the final on the line.