Baby Boks won’t misjudge Japan at Junior Champs
The Junior Springboks definitely don’t want to get into trouble with Japan when the Junior World Tournament kicks off in Manchester, England, next month.
The Baby Boks start the Under20 Championship against Japan and will want to avoid what happened to the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup – when they unexpectedly lost to a spirited Japan side.
But the Bokkies are not planning on suffering the same fate. According to the team’s captain, Jeremy Ward, it is just as important to prepare yourself mentally as you do physically for both a match like this and the entire tournament.
“Our first focus is only on June 7, nothing further,” says Ward about the prospect of kicking off the tournament against Japan.
“We won’t make the mistake of looking too far into the future to the semifinal or final. All the focus will be on Japan and, after that, on the second group match.”
The Bokkies face Argentina on June 11 and France on June 15 in their other two group matches.
Only two of the Junior Boks who were part of coach Dawie Theron’s Junior group last season have made the team again, but Ward isn’t concerned that they will arrive in Manchester as an inexperienced team.
Nine of the players in the group last year played in the Under-18 series against England, France and Wales.
“I don’t think I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. There are several players who are leaders in their own right who could help me.
“When we arrived at the training camp, we didn’t really know what to expect. The improvement first started showing in our fitness levels. There were also some minor changes to our game and hopefully that shows at the tournament.”
This year there will be added pressure on Ward and his fellow backs because the Baby Boks don’t have the big pack of forwards they have had at previous Junior World tournaments – which helped them dominate.
An approach of more ball-in-hand seems likely to be the team’s destiny.
According to Ward, the plan is not to just throw the ball around.
“If an opportunity presents itself, we have to take it. The coach gave us the initiative. Whether it’s in our 25 or our opponents’, we have to be able to finish it off.
“It’s not going to take one or two players with the X factor to do this for us, but the whole team.”