It was an unforgettable match in Paarl as the Junior Springboks faced off against Italy’s under-20s. Unfortunately, the South African team found themselves overwhelmed in the scrums and rolling mauls, a sight seldom seen in recent times.
The Italians, displaying an immense forward prowess despite the atrocious weather conditions, emerged victorious with a score of 34-26 in the World Rugby U20 Championship clash.
From the outset, Italy showcased their dominance by taking a commanding 17-0 lead in the challenging conditions. However, the Baby Boks displayed their resilience, managing to narrow the gap to 17-12 by halftime.
Regrettably, the superior Italian setpiece proved to be the Junior Boks’ undoing. The wet weather and soggy field made it exceedingly difficult for the home team to match the physicality and precision of their opponents.
Furthermore, South Africa’s high penalty count and handling errors only added to their woes, hindering their efforts. Nevertheless, there were notable individual moments of brilliance from the Junior Springboks.
Damian Markus, the inside centre, executed a remarkable solo try, sprinting from deep within his own territory and piercing through the Italian defense for a remarkable five-pointer.
Scrumhalf Imad Khan demonstrated his skill with a cleverly placed crosskick, resulting in winger Jurenzo Julius scoring a try.
Although the Baby Boks managed to secure a bonus point by scoring four tries, their path to the playoffs now hinges on defeating Argentina in their final match and relying on other teams’ results.
While the comeback from a 17-point deficit was commendable, South Africa’s inability to counter the sheer strength of Italy’s forward pack proved to be their downfall.
The Junior Springboks found themselves in hot water whenever the Italians unleashed their rolling maul, resembling a runaway bus without brakes hurtling downhill.
It is a worrisome concern ahead of the upcoming match against Argentina, as the Argentineans are renowned for their powerful forward play.
Additionally, injuries to backs Neil le Roux and Sam Francis only compound the worries as the last pool match approaches.
To progress beyond the group stages, the home team must find a solution to their forwards’ struggles in handling the opposition’s forceful performance. Failure to do so risks premature elimination from the Championship.
South Africa 26 — Tries: Katlego Letebele, Jurenzo Julius, Damian Markus, Juann Else. Conversions: Imad Khan (3).
Italy 34 — Tries: Marcos Gallorini (2), Penalty try, Nicholas Gasperini. Conversions: Simone Brisighella (3). Penalties: Brisighella, Giovanni Sante.