23 May 2014
With only one more training session to go on Friday, the Junior Springboks are raring to have a go at the 2014 Junior World Championships (JWC) starting in Auckland, New Zealand on 2 June.
Junior Bok coach, Dawie Theron, addressed a media briefing in Stellenbosch on Thursday and said his charges are looking forward to leaving for New Zealand on Monday. Before that, they will have their capping ceremony in Cape Town on Saturday.
South Africa has an impressive record in the IRB Junior World Championship. Last year, in France, they finished third, losing only one game by a single point to Wales, and beating New Zealand 41-34 to finish in third place. In 2012, they won the title in Cape Town, defeating the Kiwis 22-16 in the title-decider.
Theron said it is already evident that the squad is reaping the rewards of an adjusted training schedule, which included three tests against Argentina, with the Junior Boks winning the series 3-0. Compared to previous years, the squad has spent a lot more time together before their departure for the JWC.
“It was very positive for us, and it was good that it was closer to the tournament. Our preparation will mean more for us because we played these games just before the tournament. And we also had a very hard contact session against Hamiltons earlier in the week, and that also went well,” Theron said in a statement.
The coach said he is not too concerned that two of his players, Handre Pollard (Vodacom Bulls) and Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks), have not been able to participate fully at the training camp because of Vodacom Super Rugby commitments. Pollard will captain the team in New Zealand.
‘He knows our system well’
“Handre is in his third year with us and he knows our system very well. All his experience over the last three years will make it easier for him to slot in. He knows the coaches and he knows the culture of the team,” Theron explained.
He reiterated his team will face a daunting challenge in New Zealand, where they are grouped in the same pool as the Kiwis, Scotland and Samoa.
‘A very difficult group’
“It is a very difficult group and is a big challenge for us, so we will take it one game at a time. For now, we don’t want to look too far ahead. We see Scotland as our most important match, so that we can get going and lay the foundation. That’s why it’s so important to get it right from the start, but it’s also a great opportunity,” he added.
The Junior Springbok coach also said New Zealand will be under huge pressure in their own country. “I think the pressure is massive on New Zealand. It will be a major challenge for them.”
Theron described his squad as big and physical, but added that there is a good balance of skillful players as well.