Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux was disappointed with his team’s 46-29 defeat against France in their final World Rugby U20 Championship pool match in Narbonne on Thursday, but he lauded their effort to grind out the bonus point to book their place in the semi-final against England.
France came out with a bang in front of a passionate crowd in a jam-packed stadium and ran in five first-half tries to one by the Junior Springboks to take a 36-7 lead at the break. The SAU20’s, however, fought back to score four second-half tries, which saw them take up the last semi-final spot.
“We are through to the semi-final,” said Roux. “I think the players showed tremendous character in the second half to score four tries. We didn’t start off well, we were like rabbits in the headlights, while France were physical and they ran hard at us.
“But I take full responsibility for the result.
“We will do our recovery, go back and look at the game, learn from our mistakes, and then we will take on England in the semi-final.”
Looking forward, Roux said: “I think we need to go through our processes. We are not going to do things differently.
“It is now a case of ensuring that we are mentally fresh for the England game. We’ve played against them before, so we know what to expect and we will be prepared for it.”
The match started with both teams missing penalty goals, but France struck first in the eighth minute compliments of No 8 Jordan Joseph, who touched down in the corner before adding another in the 20th minute. His second five-pointer followed a penalty goal and try by flyhalf Louis Carbonel.
France continued to take advantage of their powerful running as the half progressed, which saw further tries by centres Pierre Louis Barassi and Romain Ntamak, allowing them to build up a 36-0 lead.
Junior Springbok hooker Schalk Erasmus, however, put the team on the scoreboard three minutes before the break with a pick-and-go after some solid pressure close to the tryline, which flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela converted to take their score to seven points.
The Junior Boks showed their fighting spirit early in the second half with a try by replacement hooker Tiaan van der Merwe from a rolling maul, but this was cancelled out minutes later as replacement prop Jean-Baptiste Gros finished off a try from an intercept.
Junior Springbok winger Wandisile Simelane added the team’s third try in the 63rd minute as he received the ball out wide and tip-toed his way through two defenders to cross the chalk.
Replacement French hooker Maxime Lamothe received a yellow card three minutes later, and the SAU20’s capitalised on this as replacement props Alulutho Tshwakweni and Sazi Sandi scored back-to-back tries following sustained pressure by the forwards on the tryline. This reduced their deficit to 43-29 with six minutes to play.
France had the last say in the match with a penalty goal, which saw them secure a 46-29 win to top pool C and book their place in the semi-final against New Zealand.
France 46 (36) Junior Springboks 29 (7)
France – Tries: Jordan Joseph (2), Louis Carbonel, Pierre Louis Barassi, Romain Ntamak, Jean-Baptiste Gros. Conversions: Louis Carbonel (3), Romain Ntamak (2). Penalty Goals: Louis Carbonel (2).
Junior Springboks – Tries: Schalk Erasmus, Tiaan van der Merwe, Wandisile Simelane, Alulutho Tshwakweni, Sazi Sandi. Conversions: Lubabalo Dobela, Gianni Lombard.