Nine Baby Boks back for more?
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 20:30
It was perhaps just one percent we needed
IRB Junior World Championship 2015 is a long way off and much can happen before then, but South Africa may just field one of the most experienced teams in the competition's history.
Unlike arch-rivals New Zealand, who have a stated policy of relying almost exclusively on players in their final year in junior rugby, SA have not been scared to blood schoolboys - 2014 Baby Bok captain and new Bok flyhalf Handré Pollard a prime example of this.
South Africa Under-20 coach Dawie Theron admitted they had trouble getting permission for Pollard to join the highly successful Junior Boks when they won the IRB JWC in 2012.
He not only helped them win three years ago, but came back in his third tournament to captain SA U20 in the 2014 Final - where they lost by one point (20-21) to England.
It is worth noting that the New Zealanders felt i was an error to include three Under-19 players in their team - after they were twice beaten by the Baby Boks, including in the semifinal, and finished in third place.
In contrast, nine members of the SA U20 squad that travelled to NZ this month, will still be available when the 2015 edition comes around in 12 months' time.
"The guys grew as a group tremendously," the SA U20 coach, Theron, said, when asked about his young team that came within a missed drop-goal of dethroning the two-time champion English.
"A massive positive is that in the last couple of years, we played New Zealand four times and we beat them four times.
"For the future that is creative something [very positive] in these players.
"As far as England is concerned, we beat them last year and the South African schools level twice in the last two years.
"I believe that we can beat England seven out of every 10 games. Yes, they are a very well-coached and professional unit. They also have some big and very physical players."
Theron admitted one of the main reasons why his charges fell short against England in the Final in Auckland was because it was a tough mental challenge for the young guys.
"We played in our third 'Final'," the Junior Boks' mentor said, adding: "If we lost the first [pool] game against New Zealand, we would have been out of the play-offs. We could have been playing for fifth place.
"It just so happened that France, who were the [Under-20] Six Nations champions lost in a freakish way against Wales and it gave New Zealand a chance to advance to the play-offs.
"We then had the play in a second 'Final 'against them. They had the whole country behind them - they managed to get themselves mentally up for it twice in a row.
"On the day [of the Final] it was perhaps just one percent we needed against England to destroy them.
"There were moments in the Final that we had the chance to do it."
Theron felt there were a few "effort errors", but described those as "valuable experience" for the future and added that they have already made plans for the future.
"We will not be satisfied till we bring the [Junior World] Cup home."
He also spoke about staying in he same hotel as New Zealand.
"They said they made a mistake to bring in three youngsters that will still be available next year. Normally they only go for guys who are in their last year of Under-20.
"We have nine players of his current squad that are eligible again for the next JWC [in 2015 in Italy]."
Those Baby Boks that can return in 2015 include the Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, Joseph Dweba and the highly rated Western Province duo of Jacques Vermeulen and star lock JD Schickerling.
"Seven of them now have the experience of having played in a Final," Theron said.
"Seven of the guys who took to the field in Final against England will be available back next year."
Asked about the errors in the Final, Theron said they made a couple of effort errors.
"In one, where we played off No.9, the pod was a bit too far away. The ball was in the air too long and they could rush off the line.
"We also didn't show the same patience that we did against New Zealand in the semifinal.
"Maybe it was a bit of mental fatigue.
"There was a vital ball we knocked, when we could have had a 17-3 lead - then it would have been a different ball game."
By Jan de Koning
* Don't forget to return for the fifth and final instalment of Jan de Koning's chat with SA U20 coach Dawie Theron, when he speaks about the prospects of a four-nations Rugby Championship style tournament for juniors
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