Rugby: Sth Africa in Boks seat despite injuries

By Campbell Burnes

South Africa's Cyle Brink tries to bring down New Zealand's Atunaisa Moli during the IRB Junior World Championship. Photo / Greg Bowker
South Africa's Cyle Brink tries to bring down New Zealand's Atunaisa Moli during the IRB Junior World Championship. Photo / Greg Bowker

South Africa have mixed news on the injury front but only good news on the playing field.

Now firming as favourites to contest the final with England after a clinical dismantling of New Zealand on Friday night, the 2012 junior world champions are building nicely as they prepare to face Samoa in Pukekohe tomorrow night in their final pool match.

Hooker Malcolm Marx has a medium-term knee injury that will sideline him for six weeks. His replacement is Blue Bulls Under-21 rake Arno van Wyk. Flanker Jean Luc du Preez is unlikely to be available for tomorrow night after he was knocked out against New Zealand. The match was stopped for several minutes, such was the concern for him. However, injured midfielder Andre Esterhuizen and flanker Jacques Vermeulen are back training.

Junior Boks coach Dawie Theron was happy to get through what he termed a "final" unscathed and can now reset the compass for Samoa and the business end of the tournament.

"We know it's a very, very tough competition. The fact New Zealand and us are in the same pool meant it was like a final. It was approached like a final and played like a final ... but the show goes on, because there are still a lot of games to be played in this tournament. Hopefully this gives us momentum," said Theron, who added that the maturity of his players under pressure was not by chance.

"Most of these players come out of Super Rugby structures, not necessarily playing in the Super Rugby top team [at their franchise]. We don't wrap these guys in cotton wool, we put the facts on the table. The more they get used to the pressure, the better they perform under pressure."

And while it is correct to say that South Africa squeezes the life out of teams and kicks a lot for position, the Junior Boks also have pace in the back three which allows them to finish any opportunities. But the basic foundation of their attack is a high-functioning set-piece.

"We've got special guys in there, but we work really hard on it. In past [Junior World Cup] tournaments, we tended to grow into the lineouts, but here we actually did better from the scrums too with three tightheads," said the former Springbok front-rower.

It is all very well knowing how South Africa will play, but the reality of trying to stop them will be causing headaches for the coaches of their next three opponents.

- NZ Herald

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