Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron on Saturday described his team’s 49-19 defeat against Argentina in the bronze playoff at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England, as one of the most disappointing moments in his career.
The Junior Boks were outscored six tries to three by a physical and well-balanced Argentina side at the AJ Bell stadium despite an enterprising opening quarter, which saw them build up an encouraging 19-7 lead.
“This is one of the most disappointing moments of my career and certainly the biggest disappointment in my six years with the Junior Springboks,” Theron said after the match. “This young team has a lot of talent, but they need to complement that with the right decisions at the right time on the field.
“We started off well against Argentina, but one try against the run of play resulted in us losing belief. We didn’t stick to our structures and we made bad decisions, while Argentina stuck to what worked for them.
“Argentina dominated physically and England did the same in the semi-final, and we could not counter that. We certainly missed the international competition in our warm-up games coming into this tournament.“That said, this team contains amazing talent, and some of the players showed that if they get going, they could do well. Several players in this squad are younger than 20 years old and can represent the Junior Boks again next year, and I believe they would have learned a lot from this tournament.”
The Junior Springboks showed intent from the outset as they put together phases on attack and applied pressure on Argentina with their solid set pieces and mauls.
Their efforts paid off in the sixth minute with flyhalf Manie Libbok scoring a try initiated by a good counterattack by wing Edwill van der Merwe, which handed the Junior Springboks a 7-0 lead.
Van der Merwe added the team’s second try minutes later as he dashed to the tryline after a dominant scrum allowed them to get on the front foot.
Argentina hit back with a try in the 14th minute from a grubber kick to reduce their deficit to 12-7. But Junior Springbok hooker Jan-Henning Campher cancelled out this try as the team produced a solid rolling maul to stretch the team’s lead to 19-7.
Argentina, however, forced their way back into the match with a try by Juan Cruz Mallia who gathered a loose pass by the Junior Boks for their second converted try, while their flyhalf Domingo Miotti added a penalty shortly before the break to leave the team 19-17 behind.
The pressure on the Junior Boks during the half was compounded by the fact that lock Ruben de Villiers received a yellow card for tackling a player in the air in the 27th minute, forcing them to play with 14 men for 10 minutes.
Argentina continued to stamp their authority in the second half and earned the rewards with four tries and two penalties to stretch their lead to 44-19 with 13 minutes to go.
The Junior Boks, however, had their chances, as they worked their way close to Argentina’s tryline on several occasions throughout the match, but they were unable to convert these opportunities into points, which cost them dearly.
Junior Springboks 19 (19) – Tries: Manie Libbok, Edwill van der Merwe, Jan-Henning Campher. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2).
Argentina 49 (17) – Tries: Gaspar Baldunciel, Juan Cruz Mallia (3), Julian Dominguez, Mariano Romanini. Conversions: Domingo Miotti (5). Penalty Goals: Domingo Miotti (3).