The Junior Springboks are into the last four of the U20 World Championships thanks to the tournament structure‚ rather than their own prowess‚ after France thrashed them 46-29 on Thursday night.
The defeat in the final clash in Pool C saw the Junior Boks earn a try-scoring bonus point.
It took them to 11 log points thanks to earlier scrappy wins over Georgia (33-27) and Ireland (30-17)‚ which was enough to earn the fourth semi-final berth at the tournament being held at in the south of France.
With three Pools of four teams‚ the top team in each Pool advanced to the semis with the best of the second-placed teams‚ in this case South Africa with 11 points‚ also advancing.
The Junior Boks will now face England for a place in the final while New Zealand and impressive hosts France‚ will meet in the other semi-final.
England finished with a maximum of 15 log points from their three matches to earn top seeing with NZ failing to earn a bonus point when Australia in their final Pool match.
France also missed out on a bonus point in their first round win over Ireland.
But Les Blues have improved with each outing and against the Junior Boks they were rampant in the first half‚ scoring five tries and running into a 36-0 lead before SA scored on the stroke of halftime.
As good as France were‚ SA were abject.
The Junior Boks missed over 30 tackles in the first half alone.
“We are through to the semi-final‚” said coach Chean Roux.
“I think the players showed tremendous character in the second half to score four tries. We didn’t start off well‚ we were like rabbits in the headlights‚ while France were physical and they ran hard at us.
“But I take full responsibility for the result.
“We will do our recovery‚ go back and look at the game‚ learn from our mistakes‚ and then we will take on England in the semi-final. We need to go through our processes. We are not going to do things differently.
“It is now a case of ensuring that we are mentally fresh for the England game. We’ve played against them before‚ so we know what to expect and we will be prepared for it.”
France struck first in the eighth minute compliments of No 8 Jordan Joseph‚ who touched down in the corner before adding another in the 20th minute.
His second five-pointer followed a penalty goal and try by flyhalf Louis Carbonel.
France continued to take advantage of their powerful running as the half progressed‚ which saw further tries by centres Pierre Louis Barassi and Romain Ntamak‚ allowing them to build up a 36-0 lead.
Junior Springbok hooker Schalk Erasmus‚ however‚ put the team on the scoreboard three minutes before the break with a pick-and-go after some solid pressure close to the tryline‚ which flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela converted.
The Junior Boks showed their fighting spirit early in the second half with a try by replacement hooker Tiaan van der Merwe from a rolling maul‚ but this was cancelled out minutes later as replacement prop Jean-Baptiste Gros finished off a try from an intercept.
Junior Springbok winger Wandisile Simelane added the team’s third try in the 63rd minute as he received the ball out wide and tip-toed his way through two defenders to cross the chalk.
Replacement French hooker Maxime Lamothe received a yellow card three minutes later‚ and the SAU20’s capitalised on this as replacement props Alulutho Tshwakweni and Sazi Sandi scored back-to-back tries following sustained pressure by the forwards on the tryline.
This reduced their deficit to 43-29 with six minutes to play.
France had the last say in the match with a penalty goal‚ which saw them secure a 46-29 win to top pool C and book their place in the semi-final against New Zealand.
France 46 (36) Junior Springboks 29 (7)
France – Tries: Jordan Joseph (2)‚ Louis Carbonel‚ Pierre Louis Barassi‚ Romain Ntamak‚ Jean-Baptiste Gros. Conversions: Louis Carbonel (3)‚ Romain Ntamak (2). Penalties: Louis Carbonel (2).
Junior Springboks – Tries: Schalk Erasmus‚ Tiaan van der Merwe‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Alulutho Tshwakweni‚ Sazi Sandi. Conversions: Lubabalo Dobela‚ Gianni Lombard.
by Craig Ray – TimesLIVE