Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron singled out mistakes at crucial times as the main reason for the SA U20 team’s 39-17 defeat against England in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship semi-final at the Academy Stadium in Manchester, England, on Monday.
South Africa trailed 31-3 at the break and tried hard to work their way back into the match in the second half, but missed opportunities cost them dearly.
The Junior Springboks will face Argentina in the bronze playoff at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday, while England will host Ireland in the final of the international spectacle.
“We are very disappointed,” said Theron. “We played against a well-balanced England side, and unfortunately we made too many errors. We created three or four chances in their 22 early in the match, but either penalties or turnovers cost us. It was a hard lesson for our young team.
“But that said we have to give England credit, they played very well. There was a stage where we fought back strongly and we had to convert our opportunities into points, but we conceded turnovers again. An example of this was when we had an uncontested lineout in their half and we lost the ball, and they went on to score. So it was not a good night for us. One can see the disappointment on everyone’s faces, but we will work very hard ahead of our next match to finish the tournament on a positive note.”
The Junior Springboks showed promise on attack in the opening minutes as they put together phases on attack and applied pressure on England.
But the hosts soon made their presence felt as their forwards and backs combined well to produce a solid performance, while they rounded off their try-scoring opportunities to earn five first-half tries.
In turn, the Junior Springboks managed to score only a penalty by fullback Curwin Bosch in the first half.
The Junior Boks, however, worked their way close to England’s tryline on a few occasions, but penalties conceded at crucial times and turnovers denied the team from crossing the tryline. Their defence also let them down, as they allowed England to work their way over the advantage line on attack.
Adding to the pressure Junior Springbok captain Jeremy Ward received a yellow card in the 15th minute for a dangerous tackle.
England, however, were also reduced to 14 men in the closing minutes of the half due to a dangerous tackle, but despite this they finished the half strongly with their fifth try for a 31-3 lead.
The Junior Boks fought back strongly in the second half and managed to shut out England close to their tryline in the opening exchanges, and then added two tries by Edwill van der Merwe and Curwin Bosch within four minutes to reduce the deficit to 31-17.
Van der Merwe gathered a cross kick close the Junior Boks’ tryline and sprinted to the posts, while Bosch gathered a well-timed pass to touch down, and he converted both tries.
England added a penalty two minutes later to increase their score to 34-17 and they tried hard to add to their score as the half progressed, but they were shut out by the Junior Bok defence.
England’s efforts, however, paid off from a stolen lineout in the 72nd minute as they went on to score their sixth try.
South Africa had an opportunity to add a third try from a maul in 77th minute, but a knock-on denied them, and forced them to settle for the 39-17 defeat.
Junior Springboks 17 (3) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe, Curwin Bosch. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Curwin Bosch (1).
England 39 (31) – Tries: Huw Taylor, John Williams, Max Green, Max Malins, Max Wright, Sam Aspland-Robinson. Conversions: Harry Mallinder (3). Penalty: Harry Mallinder.