Junior Boks end U-20 championship with win against Argentina

12 May 2024 - 11:51
By Sports Staff
The Junior Boks' Jurenzo Julius celebrates scoring a try in their Rugby Championship U-20 match against Argentina at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Sunshine Coast, Australia on Sunday.
Image: Albert Perez/Getty Images The Junior Boks' Jurenzo Julius celebrates scoring a try in their Rugby Championship U-20 match against Argentina at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Sunshine Coast, Australia on Sunday.

Junior Springbok flyhalf Philip-Albert van Niekerk kicked a last-minute penalty goal to seal a remarkable 30-28 victory after a great start and strong second half in their final Under-20 Rugby Championship clash against Argentina on Sunday.

New Zealand beat Australia 36-25, also at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Sunshine Coast, Austalia, to take the title.

The Junior Boks would have been happy with the victory, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially at the line-outs.

However, they showed great character in the second half to overturn a 21-7 deficit at the break and earn a two-point victory in the match played in sunny conditions with a light wind, a welcome respite after the rain in the first two rounds.

After an bright start, with outside centre Jurenzo Julius scoring a try in the opening exchanges from a turnover at the kickoff, the South Africans allowed Argentina back into the game through a combination of unforced errors, bad decision-making and losing possession on the ground.

They showed some good intent on attack early on and when asked were solid in defence, but the Junior Boks lost their first four line-outs, a few of them deep in Argentinian territory, which is inexcusable at international level.

Their scrums were solid for most of the match and they applied a lot of pressure in this phase in the second half. There were more line-out woes for the Junior Boks after the break, resulting in the team opting for quick-tap penalties in the Argentinian 22 — a tactic that had the desired effect in the end.

After the Junior Boks' strong start, Argentina slowly built confidence on the back of forward ascendancy, and scored their first try after 27 minutes when left-wing Franco Rossetto went over, with flyhalf Facundo Rodriguez's conversion making it 7-7.

Minutes later scrumhalf Ezekiel Ngobeni was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle and when he came back early in the second half it was 21-7 to Argentina as Rossetto added two more tries to his tally, with Los Pumitas making the most of their numerical advantage to allow their speedster a first-half hat-trick.

Whatever Junior Bok coach Bafana Nhleko said during the break clearly had an affect as the SA U-20s came out firing. After another attacking line-out went awry, tireless No.8 Tiaan Jacobs crashed over from a quick tap penalty with Van Niekerk's conversion making it 21-14 in the 46th minute.

Ten minutes later replacement prop Casper Badenhorst also barged over from a tap penalty in the Argentinian 22, but the conversion went wide and suddenly it was a two-point game.

When Argentina were shown a yellow card with just under 15 minutes to go, the Junior Boks took their chance with a penalty goal by Van Niekerk, followed by a third try from a tap penalty by SA U-20 captain Zachary Porthen (prop) to put them in a 27-21 lead.

Rossetto gave Los Pumitas some hope with his fourth try five minutes before the end. Replacement back Santino Di Lucca's sideline conversion gave Argentina a one-point lead, but the Junior Boks held their composure, worked themselves into a favourable field position and Van Niekerk did the rest after the hooter had sounded.

Scorers

Junior Springboks 30 (7) — Tries: Jurenzo Julius, Tiaan Jacobs, Casper Badenhorst, Zachary Porthen. Conversions: Philip-Albert van Niekerk (2). Penalty goals: Van Niekerk (2).

Argentina 28 (21) — Tries: Franco Rossetto (4). Conversions: Facundo Rodriguez (3), Santino Di Lucca.