Junior Springboks assistant coach Louis Koen, who also fulfils the role of SA Rugby’s acting High-Performance Manager, was pleased that the team started to find their rhythm in Tbilisi at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
The SA U20’s bounced back from a 23-23 draw against U20 Six Nations runners-up, France, in their opening match with a bonus-point 38-14 victory against hosts, Georgia, on Sunday.
The Junior Springbok coaching staff reviewed the match on Monday morning, while the players had a recovery gym session followed by massages, and Koen was pleased following the review.
“It was a very difficult and hostile environment for the players at the stadium, and as a team, we had a few soft moments in the first half and we didn’t really get much territory in the match,” said Koen.
“But I have to compliment the leadership on the field.
“The players stuck to our processes despite being level at 7-7 with Georgia early in the second quarter and they remained calm. They also used the opportunities that presented themselves and showed exceptional skill in their backline play.
“We are very proud of the team. The last 10 minutes was particularly special, as the team showed great character on defence, and that shows that we are growing as a team and getting to where we would like to be slowly but surely.”
The Junior Springboks will face Argentina in their final pool match on Thursday, and while Koen expected a challenging clash, he was confident that the Junior Boks had the goods to deliver the desired result.
The top-ranked sides in each of the three pools at the conclusion of the round-robin stages and the highest ranked team outside of the pool winners will advance to the semi-finals, which will be hosted on Tuesday, 13 June.
“Looking forward it is good to see that some of the small things we have been working on over the last three months are coming together,” said Koen.
“We will continue to focus on those processes going forward and to be more effective at our implementation because we can still improve a lot.
“That said, when it comes to knock-out rugby I believe we are well prepared. We will play against a very good Argentinean side next, but given the way we are growing as a team, we can enter the match with confidence. That said we need to cut out the soft moments and use the chances that present themselves.”
On the injury front, the team received a clean bill of health, with only a few bumps and bruises after the match against Georgia.
However, flanker Zain Davids will appear before a disciplinary committee on Monday afternoon following the red card he received shortly before the final whistle.