Con­fi­dent Baby Boks ready for tough group

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

AUCK­LAND — The Ju­nior Spring­boks were grouped with hosts New Zealand, Samoa and Scot­land when the pools and fixtures of the IRB Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship (JWC) 2014 were con­firmed.

The fu­ture stars of world rggugby will come to­gether in New Zealand from June 2 to 20 for the sev­enth edi­tion of the Un­der-20 tour­na­ment that will see matches played at North Har­bour Sta­dium and Pukekohe Sta­dium dur­ing the pool stages and semi-fi­nals on June 2, 6, 10 and 15.

Eden Park, the sta­dium where New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup 2011 fi­nal, will then host the #JWC2014 ti­tle de­cider on June 20.

The pool stages have thrown up some mouth-wa­ter­ing en­coun­ters with hosts New Zealand to face South Africa in a re­peat of the 2012 JWC fi­nal, which the Ju­nior Spring­boks won 22-16 at DHL New­lands in Cape Town.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Eng­land will face tra­di­tional ri­vals Aus­tralia, Ar­gentina and IRB Ju­nior World Rugby Tro­phy 2013 win­ners Italy in Pool A, while 2013 run­ners-up Wales face en­coun­ters with France, Ire­land and Fiji in Pool B.

SA Un­der-20 coach Dawie Theron, who led the Ju­nior Spring­boks to their first JWC ti­tle in 2012 and the bronze medal in France ear­lier this year, said New Zealand on their home soil will pro­vide the ul­ti­mate test for his team.

“It’s go­ing to be a mas­sive chal­lenge for top spot in each of the pools, more so in our pool where we are up against New Zealand, who will be de­ter­mined to win back the JWC tro­phy in front of their own fans, Samoa who will also have huge sup­port, and Scot­land, who al­ways fight till the end,” said Theron.

The Ju­nior Boks won their last two en­coun­ters against New Zealand, beat­ing the Ki­wis in the 2012 fi­nal and clinch­ing a thrilling win in their third place play-off in June this year.

Ac­cord­ing to Theron, the Ju­nior Boks will be able to draw on a lot of pos­i­tives from their away vic­to­ries this year over Eng­land, France and New Zealand.

“The key for us is to build on the be­lief that we can play well and win against the strong­est teams away from home. The JWC is an ex­tremely tough com­pe­ti­tion to win but we are look­ing for­ward to this great chal­lenge,” added Theron.

SA start their tour­na­ment on Mon­day, June 2, 2014 against Scot­land at the Pukekohe Sta­dium, then face New Zealand on Fri­day, June 6 in the North Har­bour Sta­dium and then com­plete their Pool C fixtures against Samoa on Wed­nes­day, June 10 in Pukekohe.

The IRB JWC has gone from strength to strength since its in­tro­duc­tion in 2008 with record crowds at­tend­ing the South African event in 2012 and record tele­vi­sion au­di­ences watch­ing the 2013 edi­tion in France.

IRB tour­na­ment di­rec­tor Philippe Bour­darias said prepa­ra­tions are on track for New Zealand. “Fol­low­ing the mas­sive suc­cess of Rugby World Cup 2011, it’s great to be back in New Zealand and get­ting ready for what prom­ises to be an ex­tra­or­di­nary tour­na­ment.

“The Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship, which is now more com­pet­i­tive than ever, has grown mas­sively as a re­sult of its open, run­ning rugby, its val­ues and the chance for fans to see the fu­ture stars of world rugby up close,” he said.

The tour­na­ment dates, match venues, pools and sched­ule for #JWC2014 were an­nounced at the of­fi­cial launch at St Peter’s Col­lege in Auck­land yes­ter­day. — Sport24.

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