South Africa Junior Springboks stunned by England in World Rugby U20 Championship


The South Africa Junior Springboks delivered a much-improved performance in their final pool match of the World Rugby U20 Championship but ultimately fell short against England, losing 17-12 in challenging conditions in Cape Town on Tuesday night.

Needing a win with a try-scoring bonus point and a points difference of at least 13 to progress to the semi-finals, South Africa gave it their all.

However, England scored the winning try five minutes after the hooter, consigning the Junior Boks to a fifth-place playoff against Argentina at 14:00 on Sunday in Cape Town.

England will take on Ireland at 16:30, while New Zealand faces France at 19:00 in the semi-finals, also on Sunday at DHL Stadium.

This marks the first time since 2011 that South Africa has failed to reach the top four, and only the second time since the inception of the U20 tournament in 2008.

The SA U20s tried hard but made errors that cost them momentum, with the U20 Six Nations champions’ strong defense being a significant factor in these mistakes.

The Junior Boks had an excellent start when their captain Zachary Porthen crashed over for a converted try in the seventh minute, exploiting early England mistakes in their own 22 to put the hosts ahead.

South Africa had more possession and territorial advantage in the early exchanges, but England defended well and were tactically sharper, slowly turning the tide to play most of the second quarter in the Junior Boks’ half.

The home team committed unforced errors and conceded too many breakdown penalties—both on defense and attack—with the heavier England pack putting their South African counterparts under pressure. Despite this, the Junior Boks’ tackling was solid.

England captain Finn Carnduff scored their first try shortly before the half-hour mark, capitalizing on a South African lineout mistake and a resultant breakdown penalty to level the scoreboard, which remained tied until halftime.

The visitors started the second half with momentum, as Joe Bailey crashed over from another strong lineout drive after they set up camp in the SA 22 from the restart. The Junior Boks, however, clearly came out with the intention to play, lifting their tactical kicking game.

Six minutes later, it paid off as a clever grubber by Jurenzo Julius put Likhona Finca in space, with the speedster scoring after displaying some deft soccer skills. The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 12-12 with half an hour left in the match.

It remained a stalemate on the scoreboard until the 86th minute, when England, after a period of sustained pressure in the SA 22, clinched the game with a maul try by James Isaacs.

Despite the loss, the Junior Springboks displayed significant improvements and resilience. However, their errors and England’s strong defense ultimately prevented them from advancing to the semi-finals. South Africa will now aim to finish the tournament on a high note in the fifth-place playoff against Argentina.

The Junior Boks’ journey in this year’s championship may have ended in disappointment, but the experience gained and lessons learned will undoubtedly serve as valuable tools for the future of South African rugby. The young squad, led by promising talents like Zachary Porthen and Likhona Finca, showcased their potential and determination, setting the stage for future successes on the international stage.

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