Baby Boks put down marker for senior team
MATCH REPORT: South Africa’s Under-20 team put down a big marker for their senior compatriots on Tuesday.
The Junior Springboks left their best performance for last as they beat Wales by 47-27 (half-time 26-3) in the Final of the Six Nations U20 series in Treviso.
The win ensured they are the only team to leave Italy unbeaten after a few weeks of top-class performances.
After winning their pool games against England, Ireland and France, the SA U20 team was pitted against Wales in the series finale, with the Junior Boks putting in an impressive display as they won their fourth game on the trot in Italy.
Replacement hooker Tiaan Lange scored three of the South Africans’ seven tries and if it wasn’t for lapses in concentration late in both halves from the Junior Boks, the victory could have been bigger.
Junior Springbok captain Sacha Mngomezulu said afterwards playing in the U20 series was a dream come true for him and the team.
“The boys worked extremely hard, and they deserve this,” said Mngomezulu.
“Credit must also go to the coaches who made us work hard and put in such a good effort for us to be ready.
“It’s an amazing feeling standing here unbeaten after four games. Not too long ago, we didn’t even play rugby, so credit to World Rugby and the Six Nations for staging this excellent tournament. They allowed the boys to create life-long memories,” added the Junior Bok skipper.
Bafana Nhleko’s team were impressive in the opening half, dominating the kicking game and possession, while the Welsh struggled with the South African physicality.
No.8 Louw Nel went over in the corner after a quick tap penalty for the first try of the match in the sixth minute. Mngomezulu added the conversion from the side to hand the SA U20 a 7-0 lead.
Wales skipper Joe Watkins landed his first points when he nailed a penalty goal from the restart, but in the next move, SA hooker Lukhanyo Vokozela was injured with Wales prop Nathan Evans yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.
From the ensuing line-out, Lange – who had just replaced Vokozela – scored the second try, also converted by Mngomezulu, to stretch the Junior Boks’ lead to 14-3.
The SA kicking game gave them a positional advantage, while their defence was also solid whenever the Welsh threatened.
In the 22nd minute, inside centre Suleiman Hartzenberg scored a brilliant try when he sliced through the Welsh defence from a lineout to score under the posts.
With the score at 21-3, the SA U20 looked settled and in control, and they went even further ahead a few minutes later when Lange went over for his second try.
Shortly thereafter, Mngomezulu was forced to leave the field with an arm injury, with Neil le Roux coming on at scrumhalf and Nico Steyn moving to flyhalf.
The Junior Boks were then reduced to 14 men when Nel was yellow carded for foul play, all of which cost the SA U20 some momentum.
Wales drew first blood in the second half when their outside centre Mason Grady outpaced the Junior Boks defence to score our wide, reducing the South Africans’ lead to 26-8.
But South Africa hit back with their first try of the second half when Lange went over from close quarters for his third five-pointer, converted by Donovan Don, which took the lead to 33-8 with plenty of time left to play.
Hartzenberg then grabbed his second when he won the foot race to a brilliant grubber by Steyn. Don converted brilliantly taking the score to 40-8 with 20 minutes to go.
Five minutes later, it was 47-8 when outside centre Ethan James waltzed through to score under the posts, while Don again added the extras.
It was the last score for the Junior Boks as Wales finished with three late tries, by reserve fullback Joe Westwood, flanker Ethan Fackrell and reserve prop Cameron Jones.
But the night belonged to the Junior Boks who simply had too much class.
For the Junior Springboks
Tries: Nel, Lange 3, Hartzenberg 2, James
Cons: Mngomezulu 3, Don 3
For Wales U20
Tries: Grady, Westwood, Fackrell, Jones
Cons: Hawkins 2
Junior Springboks: 15 Donovan Don, 14 Katlego Letebele, 13 Ethan James, 12 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 11 Imad Khan, 10 Sacha Mngomezulu (captain), 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Louw Nel, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Paul de Villiers, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Connor Evans, 3 Corne Weilbach, 2 Lukhanyo Vokozela, 1 Corné Lavagn.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Lange, 17 Juann Else, 18 Sivu Mabece, 19 Merwe Olivier, 20 Siya Ningiza, 21 Neil le Roux, 22 Duran Koevort, 23 Latica Nela, 24 Lamla Nunu, 25 Corné Rahl, 26 Gcino Mdletshe.
Wales U20: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Oli Andrew, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Joe Hawkins (captain), 11 Harri Houston, 10 Dan Edwards, 9 Morgan Lloyd, 8 Ryan Woodman, 7 Ethan Fackrell, 6 Ben Williams, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 4 Christ Tshiunza, 3 Nathan Evans, 2 Oli Burrows, 1 Rhys Barratt.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Cameron Jones, 18 Adam Williams, 19 Mackenzie Martin, 20 Morgan Morse, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Josh Phillips, 23 Joe Westwood, 24 Iestyn Hopkins, 25 Caleb Salmon, 26 Morgan Veness.