JWC Preview: South Africa out for redemption

(IRB.COM) Thursday 7 June 2012
JWC Preview: South Africa out for redemption
South Africa now have no room for mistakes after losing to Ireland on day one - Photo: Image SA

The IRB Junior World Championship 2012 continues on Friday with hosts South Africa talking about the need to redeem themselves and salvage their title hopes following the shock loss to Ireland on the opening day.

South Africa were caught off guard by a determined Irish Under 20 outfit, who stuck to their game plan of tackling their opponents low, disrupting ball and putting pressure on the Junior Boks’ scrum half for the full 80 minutes and got their reward with a 23-19 win.

The loss isn’t the end of South Africa’s hopes of reaching a first JWC final, but they simply cannot afford any more slip ups and have to beat Italy convincingly and then 2011 runners-up England in their remaining pool matches with only the Pool B winner guaranteed a place in the semi finals.

JWC Day 1: Performance of the Day - Ireland beating South Africa

Coach Dawie Theron has rung the changes for the match with Italy at the University of Western Cape Stadium at 18:45 local time, retaining only four players in the starting XV – prop Steven Kitshoff, second row Paul Willemse, captain and flanker Wian Liebenberg and centre Jan Serfontein.

“We are keen to redeem ourselves against Italy as we disappointed ourselves and our supporters against the Irish and I am convinced that the new players in the team will provide us with a lot of positive energy,” explained Theron.

Liebenberg added: “There is still a chance that we can finish at the top of our pool so we’re going to go out there with everything we’ve got and just concentrate on the next game ... I think Italy has a strong scrum so we want to capitalise on the scrums and destroy them in the set phases.”

They will face an Italian side still coming to terms with the loss of their star centre Michele Campagnara, who returned home on Wednesday having damaged knee ligaments early in the Azzurrini’s 64-5 loss to England on day one.

His replacement is Giovanni Benvenuti, the younger brother of Tommaso who himself played at JWC 2009 and will play for Italian national side against Argentina on Saturday, but he has not been included in a much-changed match day squad by coach Craig Green.

Scotland target France win

France, like South Africa, are another side desperate to get their campaign back on track after a surprise opening loss, 18-15 to Argentina, and will be expected to pile on the points against a Scottish side that conceded 11 tries against Australia on day one.

Only three players remain from that loss with Kelian Galletier taking over the captaincy and moving across to number 8 from the flank for the match against a side they beat only 30-21 in the Under 20 Six Nations earlier in the year.

Scotland, by contrast, make only five changes with Murray McConnell’s inclusion at scrum half the only change in the backline from the heavy loss to Australia. Gary Graham, the son of former Scotland international George, gets his first JWC start in the back row.

The France match - the first time the team's have met in JWC history - was one captain Harry Leonard believed Scotland could “really target” before the tournament got underway.

“France, we played them in the Six Nations and had a really good game against them and I think it could have gone either way looking back at the game. That is a game we can really target and try to get a result.

“I think our number one goal would be to beat France and then again Argentina.”

Competition for places

Australia will certainly not be underestimating the threat of Argentina after seeing them recover from 15-5 down at half time against France to win, with coach David Nucifora expecting a physical challenge when the sides meet at Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

It will be the first meeting on the JWC stage between the two nations and Australia have made a number of changes, particularly among the forwards with Curtis Browning and captain Liam Gill the only players retained in the forwards.

The backline is largely unchanged with the only newcomers being Lindsay Crook and UJ Seuteni in the back three with Nucifora admitting it "will be a tough game" against a "very physical and confrontational" side who "played very well on Monday".

"We wanted to get some fresh bodies out there," explained Nucifora. "We want to give everyone an opportunity to play. We’ve got a lot of competition for places and everyone is competing hard, so we’re giving them an opportunity to show us what they’ve got.

“Having a good win in the first round just builds our confidence because we’re still building as a team. This competition is all about building from each game and getting better. It’s still early days."

Argentina have only retained four players, although Santiago Cordero moves from full back to left wing, but this is something that was always planned by coaches Bernardo Urdaneta and Facundo Soler, regardless of the result against France.

"The team changes so much because we need the players not to be tired. We have 28 players who are all at the top of their form so rotation is necessary to ensure we always have the freshest players on the field," explained Urdaneta.

"We don’t have a first and a second team, we have two separate but interchangeable teams that we can adapt according to the opposition."

No repeat for Wales

Wales will be desperate to avoid a repeat of their 92-0 mauling at the hands of New Zealand in last year's tournament, the worst defeat by any national side in Welsh rugby history, particularly the seven members of the match day squad who experienced that defeat first hand.

Captain Cory Hill was one of them, while another was fly half Matthew Morgan, who comes in for this Pool A match to form a new half back pairing with Tom Habberfield, who has played for Wales on the HSBC Sevens World Series this season. Tom Prydie also returns having had to drop out on Monday with a stomach bug.

“New Zealand are undefeated in the five years of this competition," said coach Danny Wilson. "They are certainly a massive force at this level, setting the tone as a team and as individuals. They were excellent against Samoa on Monday, and brought on a very big, powerful set of replacements from the bench, most of whom are starting against us. 

“The boys are really excited and looking forward to playing against the world champions. It’s always great to play the best sides in the world, it really sets a marker as to where you are. Our players know they will need to dramatically up their game in order to improve on last year’s result.

New Zealand, who beat Samoa 63-0 on day one, have 11 changes to their starting line up to face Wales with a number of them considered first choice in their respective positions. One who does keep his place is scrum half and co-captain Bryn Hall, but day one hat-trick hero Milford Keresoma is not in the 23.

Tried and tested for Ireland

Ireland are the only side not to have rung the changes for day two, coach Mike Ruddock deciding to keep faith with the starting line up that shocked the Junior Boks for their second meeting with England this year.

The Irish travelled to England for the Under 20 Six Nations title decider in March but saw their hopes end with a 20-9 loss and to settle for third place, behind champions England and France on point differential.

“England are the current Six Nations champions and we will have to reproduce the intensity we showed against South Africa if we are to get a result in this game,” insisted Ruddock, who was also in charge when England beat Ireland in the JWC 2011 pool stages.

“We have done our homework and we are now looking forward to the game.”

England, by contrast, have made 10 changes to their starting line up with Ryan Mills taking over the captaincy with Chris Walker, who drops the bench. Ben Spencer and Tom Heathcote form a new half back pairing as the English hope to take a step closer to a fifth successive semi final appearance. 

JWC 2012: Commentator Willie Lose reviews day one and looks ahead to day two

While four European teams comes face to face on match day two, perhaps the most hotly contested local derby will be the meeting of Fiji and Samoa at the University of Western Cape Stadium, two sides with a traditional rivalry who both lost their opening encounters.

“You’ll find the rivalry between the two teams whatever the age group,” explained Samoa team manager Andy Ripley. “This rivalry goes back many years and we’re looking forward to Friday’s game.

“The matches against Fiji are very important for the Samoan people and these are the games that we look forward to. The same goes for Fiji. They will be organised and I believe we are well prepared for this match.”