Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Nhleko proud of Junior Springboks fight despite shaky win over Georgia

The Junior Boks don’t have much time to dwell on their performance as they face Italy in their second game on Thursday.

Junior Springboks coach Bafana Nhleko was proud of the fight and ability to dig deep displayed by his team during their tough 33-23 win over Georgia in their opening game of the U20 World Championship at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Sunday night.

The tournament hosts put in a decent first half performance to lead 20-7 at halftime, but the Georgians ferociously fought back at the start of the second, pulling the score back to 20-18 by the 64th minute, with the Junior Boks also having a man in the sin bin at that time.

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However a composed showing from man-of-the-match Jean Smith, saw the flyhalf knock over two penalties to give his side some breathing room, followed by an opportunistic try which pushed them out of reach despite the Georgians having the final say of the game.

Nhleko believes that it is a lack of experience, with this team having not played a single international game together ahead of the world champs that contributed to the disjointed performance.

“We have not played as much test match rugby as the other teams, who for example, played in the Six Nations tournament, so there was always going to be hiccups in our performance,” said Nhleko.

“The fact that we had to dig deep, especially in that second half when Georgia came back strongly, was what we needed to find that trigger that comes with playing at this level. I thought the team responded well in the latter stages of the game and that bodes well going into the next game.”

Improvements needed

The Junior Boks don’t have much time to dwell on their performance as they face Italy in their second game of the champs on Thursday, and Nhleko believes his team will only improve from here.

Italy, who enjoyed a competitive six nations earlier this year, were soundly beaten 43-15 by Argentina in their tournament opener and will be fired up to make amends.

“We saw in the other results that there were a couple of tight games, it just points out what a competitive tournament this is and the more we play at this level, the better we will get,” said Nhleko.

“It is a short turn-around, so we can’t dwell on the Georgia game too much. We will do a review and then it is time to get ourselves ready for Italy. They will be hurting after their game against Argentina and will come at us hard.”

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