The Baby Boks crushed England u 20’s 28-15 in the final pool game of the junior world championships, gaining the four try bonus point required to advance to the knock out stages and with it shunted England out at the pool stages for the first time since the tournaments inauguration
It wasn’t the trench-like conditions of Stellenbosch but that didn’t seem to take the soap off the ball when England was in possession. Handling errors, particularly in critical areas were all too common, as was ill-discipline.
England only needed a losing bonus point and to stop the Boks scoring four tries in order to advance out of the pool stages for the fifth time in five years; a simple task surely?
For the first forty minutes it certainly looked that way. England enjoyed 65 % of the possession, incisive breaks were frequent enough, the set piece was dominating and everything seemed to be slowly rolling in the right direction. England would probably have felt 3-0 wasn’t just reward for their efforts, but only have them self to blame for a lack of urgency and execution when it mattered. They seemed to be going through the motions lacking the desire or cutting edge to go for the jugular.
Rob Hunter will lament the injury to Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote, whose game management was sorely missed, yet ironically it was his injury that allowed Ben Ransom—England’s best back by some distance—to come into the game. Hunter’s decision to go for a Bell at fullback who is a fly-half by trade epitomised England’s negative approach that was punished brutally in the second half by a Springbok animal in frenzy with its championship survival and pride at stake in its own territory and in front of 11,000 of its countrymen.
Four tries in twenty-five minutes pulled the carpet from underneath England’s title hopes and rewarded the baby boks for their ambition and ruthless application. They turned down several straight forward goal kicking opportunities in favour of going for the corner, backed their ability, and were repaid with a brace of tries from flanker Shaun Adendorff, and scores of individual brilliance from Pieter Steph du Toit and captain William Small-Smith.
Heineke Meyer will certainly be pleased with what he saw. Second row pairing Paul Willemse and Ruan Botha were outstanding in both the loose and the tight, flanker Shaun Adendorff epitomised South African energy and physicality and the 10-12 partnership of Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein put pace on the ball in the South African back line. However, flanker Pieter Steph du Toit and centre William Small-Smith looked like future springboks. Du Toit’s height, athleticism and physicality barred frightening resemblance to Springbok back rows Juan smith and Joe van Niekirk , whilst small-smiths pace and educated running lines had a touch of Fourie-de Villiers about them.
This should not undermine what was a wonderful team performance from a Baby Bok side that simply showed more will power than their England counterparts. Hunter will smart from this defeat, and if any light should be shed from this abrupt calamity then it should be a reminder that ambition and boldness are needed for that extra 10% to succeed. In comparison to last year’s crop, this year’s team of red rose potentials fell alarmingly short in terms of ambition and skill levels.