A remarkable second-half performance by the Junior Boks, in which they scored four tries and 30 points‚ earned them the bronze medal at the World Rugby Under-20 Championships in Tbilisi yesterday.
The 37-15 victory completed a rare‚ and probably never-tobe-repeated triple for South African rugby over France‚ after SA “A” beat the French Barbarians on Friday and the Springboks beat France in the second test on Saturday.
It was a deserved bronze medal for the Junior Boks‚ who at times played some outstanding rugby throughout the tournament.
They came within three minutes of reaching the final before England broke their hearts in a tough semifinal‚ but the way they bounced back for the dreaded third/fourth match said a lot about their character.
Coach Chean Roux made four changes for the match and was not scared to ring the changes early after the scrum and the lineout struggled in the opening exchanges of their second meeting against France at the tournament.
The sides drew 23-23 in their opening Pool fixture.
With the lineout struggling, Roux pulled off lock Ruben van Heerden after 30 minutes despite the fact that he had opened the scoring with a try in the 16th minute‚ sending on the lanky Reinhard Nothnagel.
France struck back with a try from hooker Peato Mauvuka and hit the front five minutes before half time when flyhalf Baptiste Couilloud landed a penalty. They carried the slender one-point advantage into half time.
But after the break it was one-way traffic towards the French line as the Bok forwards took control, with outstanding No 8 Juarno Augustus leading the charge.
Augustus is one of five nominees for the player of the tournament‚ and he did not disappoint with another barnstorming display that included the team’s fifth and final try in the 73rd minute. It was Augustus’ seventh try of the tournament and ensured he scored in each of the five matches SA played.
The Junior Boks took the lead minutes into the second half when hooker Johan Grobbelaar took a neat gap to score out wide.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok converted and then added a well-struck penalty to push the lead to nine points.
France were already wilting and their challenge died when replacement centre David Brits intercepted from 50m and raced away to kill off the contest.
Grobbelaar grabbed a second try‚ taking a neat offload from wing Gianni Lombard‚ before Augustus completed the SA’s scoring.
France scored a late consolation try through Couilloud‚ which he converted.
Meanwhile, England suffered a heavy 64-17 defeat by New Zealand in the final yesterday.
Ben Earl, Alex Mitchell and Josh Bayliss scored England’s tries, with Max Malins adding one conversion. Asafo Aumua got three of New Zealand’s 10.