CAPE TOWN – The Junior Springboks left Argentina with more than just a bronze medal, according to coach Chean Roux.
The South Africans secured a 41-16 victory over the hosts in the third-place play-off of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Rosario on Saturday.
The Baby Boks were the only team to go into the semi-finals undefeated, but a poor showing against France ended their hopes of playing in their first final since 2014. While first place was of course the goal, Roux lauded his team’s overall performance, and added that the three weeks they spent in Argentina also showed positive signs in terms of player development.
Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, lock JJ van der Mescht and loose forward Dylan Richardson were three of the standouts at the international spectacle, with Hendrikse being nominated for the Breakthrough Player of the Tournament accolade.
“From a player development point of view, however, several players put up their hands and took big strides forward in the last few months, so we will keep an eye on them,” Roux said.
The Junior Springboks are on the way back to SA after winning the bronze medal at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Rosario! Long trip ahead but Rikus Pretorius and Marnus Potgieter are looking forward to it! @Springboks pic.twitter.com/2FG0xlxD6j
— Junior Springboks (@JuniorBoks) June 23, 2019
The Junior Boks racked up big scores in their first two games against Scotland and Georgia, but it was their performance against New Zealand in their third and final pool game – although it wasn’t a runaway win in terms of points – that was particularly impressive.
That quality display also made their one against France in the very next match even more disappointing.
Against Argentina, the Junior Boks produced a decent first half but had it tough against a determined effort from the hosts in the second.
And it’s those second-half mistakes Roux lamented the most.
“I am very happy for the players,” said Roux. “It is tough to play five games in a row, so credit to them for finishing the tournament strongly.”
“In the second half we made silly mistakes and we couldn’t get our hands on the ball, but we stuck to our guns with our defence. Great defence creates chances and opportunities, and the team did a good job to pounce on that.”
Reflecting on the tournament as a whole, Roux said: “From a results perspective, we wanted to win the trophy, so the lesson we will take from this is that every game is important.
“You cannot slip one, and unfortunately we were not up for it against France. But that said one needs a little bit of luck as well.