Baby Boks won’t mis­judge Ja­pan at Ju­nior Champs

CityPress - - Sport - LEIGHTON KOOP­MAN sports@city­press.co.za

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.”

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