Nhleko praises Junior Boks’ fight, admits work to do for world champs

13 May 2024 - 15:55
By Sports Staff
Jurenzo Julius scores a try for the Junior Boks in their Rugby Championship U-20 win against Argentina at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina, Australia on Sunday.
Image: Albert Perez/Getty Images Jurenzo Julius scores a try for the Junior Boks in their Rugby Championship U-20 win against Argentina at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina, Australia on Sunday.

Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko praised their character and fighting spirit after they staged a comeback to beat Argentina in a pulsating Under-20 Rugby Championship match at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina, Australia on Sunday.

The Junior Boks started strongly when centre Jurenzo Julius scored in the opening minute, but could not build momentum and Argentina hit back with three converted tries, all through left wing Franco Rossetto, to take a deserved halftime lead of 21-7.

South Africa hit back with a sensational second-half display, adding three tries by Tiaan Jacobs, Casper Badenhorst and Zachary Porthen, all from tap-and-go penalties.

Nhleko was delighted that his team could secure their first win after falling short against Australia and drawing against New Zealand, who took the title as they ended the tournament with a 36-25 win over Australia.

“The guys showed great character, belief and fighting spirit to shake off a disappointing first half,” said Nhleko.

“They showed glimpses of how we can play to eventually win the game against a good Argentina. I must also praise the leadership group for the way they regrouped.

“The fighting spirit and refusal to give up is a great characteristic of the side and it bodes well for us as now that we head home to complete our preparations for the World Rugby U-20 Championship.”

The Junior Bok coach bemoaned a frustrating first half for his team, which allowed Argentina to snatch the momentum.

“We found ourselves in a very deep hole in the first half, frustratingly more from our own doing and we had to tweak a few things at half time,” he said.

We will take some confidence from this result, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Bafana Nhleko

“The players responded well as we managed the game better in the second half and imposed our systems on Argentina, which allowed us to build momentum from where we could score.

“In the previous two games, we were leading in the 75th minute but ended on the wrong side and today, we were behind yet managed to find a way, which shows growth.

“Credit to Argentina, though; they made it difficult for us especially in the line-outs. But I was happy with how we stopped their dangerous maul, which is their energy source.

“We will take some confidence from this result, but there is a lot of room for improvement. We will keep learning through our reviews and continue to work hard in training when we assemble again in Stellenbosch.”

The Junior Boks return to South Africa on Monday and will regroup again at the end of the month in Stellenbosch to complete their preparations for the World Rugby U-20 Championship, which will again be staged across venues in and around Cape Town.

SA Rugby