Baby Boks eye place in history
June 22, 2012
The two captains pose with the JWC trophy © Image SA
South Africa will contest their maiden Junior World Championship final when they entertain New Zealand at Newlands on Friday evening.
With 30,000 tickets already sold for the Under-20 final, it promises to be a memorable occasion with the Baby Boks looking to utilise the home support as their 16th man. Standing in their way is the Baby Blacks who have enjoyed complete dominance in the competition in the past. Over the past four years of the tournament, New Zealand were unbeaten dispatching England in the 2008, 2009 and 2011 finals and Australia in 2010.
But this year the Baby Blacks are showing signs of mortality after they fell to Wales in Pool A. They had already overcome the threat of Samoa with ease by this point as they put 63 points on them and then bounced back from the game with Wales with a 33-12 win over Fiji. In the semi-finals they made up for their Pool stage defeat to Wales with a resounding 30-6 win over the same opponent.
Standing in their way in the final is South Africa and Kiwi coach Rob Penney is fully aware of the threats they pose. "Principally there are two key areas (where it will be won and lost)," said Penney. "Obviously the Africans are a big side, a dynamic side. They have got a lot of physicality and a lot of presence.
"Our ability to deal with that is a critical one and our ability to generate some possession and use it intelligently. It is going to be a very tight game. I suspect that our ability to capitalise on any little opportunity that might fall our way is going to be equally as critical to our robust defence to try and nullify their physicality and tough play."
South Africa also suffered a defeat in the Pool stages when they fell to Ireland in their first match of the tournament 23-19. But they bounced back from that to ease past Italy 52-3 and then upset England 28-15. In the semi-finals they made short shrift of Argentina winning 35-3.
They boast two out of the three nominations for the IRB Junior World Player of the Year but such is the strength of their squad that Shaun Adendorff can only make the bench. Boks captain Wian Liebenberg takes his spot in the starting XV and he is relishing the chance to face the Kiwis.
"We just wanted to get to the final and win the final," Liebenberg said. "It doesn't really matter which team we play against but I would say playing against New Zealand is special in the sense that whenever New Zealand and South Africa are playing against each other it is going to be a big match.
Nominee for the Junior World Player of the Year Shaun Adendorff will have to be content with a spot on the bench © Getty Images
"I think because they have been reigning champions for so long, if we beat them then we can truly say we are the new champions."
If Liebenberg's side does upset the tournament favourites, then he is dreaming of replicating an iconic moment in South African sport from back in 1995. "Francois Pienaar was the only South African captain that lifted the trophy on home soil so it really would be a great privilege and it will be so special for myself, the team and the country and that is what we want to do in this game, we want to go out and carry the hopes of this country and just make them proud.
"The stadium is going to be packed with South African fans cheering us on so we want to embrace that opportunity and use that to uplift us as a team and then rise victoriously."
Newlands will also host two other clashes on Friday with Argentina playing Wales in the third place play-off and Ireland facing France as they battle for fifth place. England play Australia at the University of Western Cape Stadium for the seventh place play-off.
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