It was a plan that came together because of a great group of players who refused to accept defeat or mediocrity, Junior Boks coach Dawie Theron said after his team won the IRB Junior Championship 2012 at DHL Newlands Stadium on Friday, beating New Zealand 22-16 in a pulsating final.
The Junior Boks were still trailing 10-9 at the break, but he knew then that victory was possible because of the caliber and mental state of the players in his team, Theron said on Saturday, a day after the historical win for the team.
It was a first tournament win and final for the Junior Boks in the current age group format and it was fitting that it was achieved on home soil and in front of passionate South African fans, Theron said.
“I said from the start that this was positive pressure. The support from the public was unbelievable and the knowledge that Newlands was sold out was enough motivation for our players not to disappoint.”
He felt that his team was in control of play despite trailing 10-9 at the break.
“Our driving play was exceptional and forced New Zealand to concede penalties. That kept us in the game and gave us a lot of energy. It was a matter of converting the pressure into points and we did that with two great tries in the second half. We all feel blessed and humbled by this experience and with players like these; the future of South African rugby is bright.”
Theron thanked his assistant coaches, Brenden Venter and Nazeem Adams, for their contributions.
“We talked about creating the perfect blend of rugby and thanks to their efforts, we managed that. I would also like to mention a great support staff and everyone behind the scenes who worked so hard to help this team achieve. This includes Heyneke Meyer (Springbok Coach) and Rassie Erasmus (GM: High Performance), the selectors and sponsors. Their backing and support was vital, especially after we suffered that opening round loss to Ireland.”
Victorious captain, Wiaan Liebenberg described the JWC winning team as ‘a special band of brothers’.
“Credit to the coaching staff for creating an environment where we could really bond as a team and play for each other. We became a family during this tournament and no one was going to drop his brother next to him. This was a dream come true for us and to be able to share this with so many South Africans was something we will always treasure.”
IRB Junior Player of the Year Award 2012 winner, Jan Serfontein was also quick to point out the team effort.
“I am humbled by the award, but must credit everyone that was on the field with me. This was a team effort from the start, where everyone just worked so hard for the guy next to him. It is a special feeling for all of us.”