Will it be third time lucky for Baby Boks?

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

The Ju­nior Spring­boks will have to as­sert them­selves in the set-pieces to­mor­row if they want to beat Eng­land’s Un­der-20s in the semi­fi­nal of the World Rugby Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship in Manch­ester.

The teams face off at 8.45pm in the sec­ond semi­fi­nal of the com­pe­ti­tion for a place in the fi­nal.

The South Africans have, for the past few years, logged an un­de­sir­able record against the Young Roses that they will want to wipe out. In the 2014 tour­na­ment, af­ter the team started the fi­nal in New Zealand as favourites, they were trumped for the tro­phy by the English by a sin­gle point.

And last year, with Eng­land beat­ing them 28-20 in the semi­fi­nals, the Ju­nior Boks had to be sat­is­fied with third place.

Coach Dawie Theron knows his team will have to play at their peak if they want to end their los­ing streak against Eng­land and strengthen their claim to a sec­ond tro­phy un­der his lead­er­ship.

The ex­pec­ta­tion is that the Young Roses will stick to their tra­di­tional strong style – line-outs, mauls and scrums. That is what the Baby Boks need to per­fect, given that this has proved to be the team’s down­fall in re­cent years.

The South Africans will have to make smart choices if they want to stay fully in the game for its 80minute run. Their game plan may con­sist of keep­ing the ball mov­ing, in an ef­fort to keep the English for­ward pack out of the game for as long as pos­si­ble. They have the play­ers who can keep the game at high tempo in full­back Cur­win Bosch and fly half Manie Lib­bok.

But for this to be pos­si­ble, the team will have to be more ac­cu­rate, es­pe­cially in han­dling their pos­ses­sion. In both first halves of the group matches against Japan and France, the Ju­nior Boks’ ball dis­tri­bu­tion and ba­sic skills were not up to scratch. But in the sec­ond 40 min­utes of these games, things went more smoothly.

How­ever, against a team such as Eng­land, they can­not af­ford mis­takes where they lose the ball and give their ri­vals an op­por­tu­nity to launch coun­ter­at­tacks. Ac­cu­racy from kick­off will there­fore be para­mount.

Jeremy Ward, cen­tre and cap­tain of the Baby Boks, will have to take the lead. There is much pres­sure on the young­ster’s shoul­ders to keep his backs level-headed.

Eng­land did not fare too well in their last group match against the Wal­la­bies – and in light of that, the Boks ruf­fled the New Zealan­ders’ feath­ers with good play.

Still, the English Un­der-20s, who con­ceded only two tries in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, re­main the favourites to beat the Ju­nior Boks for the third time in a row in the knock­out stages of the cham­pi­onship in their back yard.

Ire­land and Ar­gentina face off in the first semi­fi­nal at 5.30pm to­mor­row.

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