The South African Under-20 team overcame a committed France team in front of their home crowd to record a third successive victory and clinch a place in the Junior World Championship semi-finals with a 26-19 victory (halftime 8-7) in La Roche-sur-Yon on Thursday.
The Junior Springboks twice trailed in the match – and were matched for tries, three-all – but they showed tremendous defensive commitment and character to resist a home nation desperate to record a significant victory in their campaign, having already lost to England.
Dawie Theron, the Junior Springboks’ coach, praised his team for clinching a vital victory against a very committed French team.
“We knew that the French would be passionate and very committed because they had so much to play for. They were lifted by a fantastic crowd and gave it their all. However, I am proud of the effort by each of my players because the win is what matter most, and we deserved it in the end.
“Our guys stood firm, made some vital tackles and in the end we clinched it with a great try by Cheslin Kolbe.”
Theron added that he was not happy with the efforts in the scrums, and that his team will work hard in the next four days to correct their mistakes.
“We missed Luhan (de Bruin, suspended prop) and there was some puzzling calls made against us. The coaches will go and have a look at the video and try to figure out what went wrong. We are in the semi-finals and will give it our best effort in the next match,” said Theron.
Junior Springbok captain, Ruan Steenkamp, said the ferocious French forward pack made it difficult for them to gain momentum.
“They disrupted us from the start and forced us into mistakes. We could not get the momentum that we wanted but we showed a lot of bravery and heart out there. We played much better towards the end, especially during the last ten minutes. I am just relieved that we managed to beat them because they are a dangerous team.
“We will now regroup and prepare for the semi-final,” said Steenkamp.
South Africa – who finished top of Pool A - will play against Wales on 18 June in Vannes.
South Africa – Tries: Dries Swanepoel, Luther Obi, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (3).
France – Tries: Thibault Regard, Marco Tauleigne, Baptiste Serin. Conversions: Enzo Selponi, Serin.