It was like a proper Test match out there
The composure the Junior Springboks showed to win their Junior World Championship semifinal against New Zealand will be vital in the final against England.
Despite trailing 15-10 at half-time, the South African Under-20 side kept their cool under pressure and clinched a dramatic 32-25 victory over the hosts with a try from a driving maul.
It was their fifth consecutive victory over the Baby Blacks and second in the current tournament, having beaten the four-time champions in the pool stages as well.
An ecstatic Junior Boks coach Dawie Theron said his team’s ability to absorb the pressure was the key factor on the night.
“It was like a proper Test match out there. It was full of tension, drama and excitement and I’m immensely proud of the boys. We kept our composure and I knew we were always in the game despite going behind at halftime and twice again in the second half,” explained Theron.
“Credit must go the players. They showed huge fighting spirit and great composure to close out the game like that. Their composure can be attributed to what we do in training. During our sessions we keep the intensity high and always put them under pressure, because that is what you have to do to win games such as these,” Theron told the media at the post-match press conference.
The coach was again full of praise for his captain’s ability to deal with the high levels of intensity.
“Handré Pollard was outstanding with his leadership and he led by example with his play. His intercept try in the first half was no fluke – that was the result of pressure,” added Theron.
The Junior Bok coach, who won the JWC title in 2012, said his forwards laid the foundation for this outstanding win.
“We always knew that New Zealand would target our mauls so we devised a plan to counter them. They performed much better in the lineouts. However, we had faith in our approach we also kicked much better in the second half, which forced them to play differently.
“Our physical strength up front and the way we controlled our set pieces were vital and in the end it was a fantastic maul which secured us the winning try.
"We will enjoy this win but we know that we haven’t won anything yet. England were outstanding against Ireland in the other semifinal and from tomorrow we will prepare very carefully for the final,” said Theron.
Pollard was again sublime in the no 10 jersey for the Junior Boks and he mixed his distribution skills and kicking game with some powerful runs at the New Zealand defence.
He became the highest JWC points scorer of all time when he scored his intercept try. According to Pollard New Zealand put his team under tremendous pressure during an absorbing first half.
“We started too slow but that was due to the pressure from them. We clawed our way back after they made all the play for most of the first half and at five points behind at halftime I knew we could do it if we could manage to do a bit more with the ball,” said the Junior Bok pivot.