Junior Springboks coach Chean Roux praised his team’s tremendous character to secure a 23-23 draw against France with a converted try in the dying seconds of their opening World Rugby U20 Championship match at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia on Wednesday.
A try in the final minute by Junior Springbok No 8 Juarno Augustus and a successful conversion by flyhalf Curwin Bosch saw the teams finish the clash tied at 23-23.
“It was nerve-wrecking, but I had confidence that we could score in the end,” said Roux.
“I knew that if we get ball possession late in the second half we would convert it into points, just as we did in the first half, because we had very little possession in the second half.
“The players showed tremendous character and that is fantastic in a World Championship.”
Roux singled out the team’s conditioning as one of the main positives in the match and said they would address the areas of their game that needed to improve in the next few days.
“The positives were that similarly to some of the warm-up games, we ended on a high note, so I think our superior conditioning pulled us through in the end,” said Roux.
“There will always be negatives if one doesn’t win a match. But I will have a look at the video to see what the negatives are and we will work on that.”
Augustus opened up the scoring in the second minute with a pick-and-go and the successful conversion and a subsequent penalty goal by Bosch pushed the team 10-0 up on the scoreboard. French fullback Romain Buros closed the gap to five points with a charge-down try in the eighth minute.
Roux’s team was dealt a double blow soon after as winger Wandisile Simelane was sin-binned for tripping, and nine minutes later prop Gerhard Steenekamp also received a yellow card for infringing at a breakdown, which forced the team to play with 13 men. The opposition capitalised on this as hooker Florian Dufour crossed the chalk in the 28th minute to push his team into a 12-10 lead.
The SA U20’s, however, sustained the pressure applied by France well for the rest of the half and managed to maintain the two-point deficit going into the break.
France struck first in the second half with a try by Baptiste Couilloud, while flyhalf Romain Ntamack slotted over back-to-back drop goals, while Bosch slotted over two penalty goals for South Africa to trail 23-16 early in the fourth quarter.
The Junior Boks continued to fight until the final minute as they retained possession and applied pressure. A yellow card for France at the death, however, saw them opt for a lineout and this patience paid off with a try for Augustus, which Bosch converted for the draw.