Junior Boks growing in confidence ahead of France semi-final
With a fourth straight Under-20 World Championship semi-final looming‚ the are focusing on mental preparation after three physical matches in 11 days in the Pool phase.
SA are the only semi-finalists to have come through the Pool phase with three wins‚ which set up a meeting against France at the Racecourse Ground in Rosario on Monday night. Hosts Argentina take on Australia in the other semi.
In Pool play SA beat Scotland‚ Georgia and New Zealand (who eliminated the Kiwis from the semis) but the other three sides have all dropped matches.
Defending champions France lost to hosts Argentina in their final match but both advanced because they reached 11 log points. The three Pool winners and the best-placed runner-up earned semi-final places. France were that team.
Australia lost to England in the final match but earlier wins over Ireland and Italy were enough to be Pool winners.
Commenting on the team’s 25-17 victory against New Zealand‚ assistant-coach Louis Koen said: “We are very pleased with the attitude the players showed.
“We had a specific plan going into the game and they executed it perfectly. There was also great leadership from our captain and leadership group.
“I thought the guys really stepped up and they showed that if they are in the right frame of mind they can produce a great game of rugby. So we are very proud of them.”
Koen‚ however‚ said there were areas they had to improve on as the final stages approach.
“There are definitely things we need to improve on if we want to be in the mix going forward‚” said the coach.
“Our game management still needs an improvement‚ and there are too many times that we want to play when we are under pressure. Our playmakers can also make small improvements in their decision-making and communication.
“Over and above that I felt that we had numerous opportunities to counterattack from the opposition’s mistakes‚ and we didn’t always utilise those opportunities‚ so there are definitely still areas to work on going into the semifinal.
“We have three days to prepare and we will do everything in our power to be as well prepared as possible.
“That said‚ the players showed that they have the right mindset and that they can pitch up for important games‚ and we believe they will be ready for the semifinal.”
With only two matches left in the competition‚ Koen was pleased with the progress the team had made since the showpiece kicked off.
“There has been an improvement in every game we played and that is a big positive for us going into the semifinal‚” said Koen.
“Against Scotland we did well to create opportunities‚ although we didn’t finish them off. And against Georgia we made a lot of errors in the first half and then showed good maturity to come back in the second half‚ and we scored some fantastic tries.
“Against New Zealand it was all about attitude and mindset‚ so we are growing as a team in every game‚ and if we can continue to do that‚ we will give ourselves a good chance to be successful.”