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South Africa outmuscle England to secure third at World Rugby U20s

By Kim Ekin
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 14: Reagan Izaks of South Africa during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023, 3rd place play-off match between South Africa and England at Athlone Sports Stadium on July 14, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

South Africa secured their ninth U20 Championship bronze medal by defeating England 22-15 in an intense encounter at Athlone Sports Stadium in Cape Town.

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In the first half, all points were scored, with South Africa responding strongly after England took an early lead with a penalty from Connor Slevin.

Despite struggling in the scrums, South Africa’s forward pack excelled in other areas, particularly in counter-rucking and mauling, effectively challenging England. Flanker Hennie Sieberhagen scored the first try with a pick-and-go, followed by Corné Beets with a close-range effort after Damian Markus put England on the back foot with a powerful run. Jean Smith’s penalty increased South Africa’s lead to 17 points unanswered.

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England responded with a remarkable try created by winger Cassius Cleaves, who made a brilliant break from his own 22-meter line and found Craig Wright, who for an unstoppable run to the try line. However, South Africa’s resolute defense prevented England from gaining momentum, and Juann Else scored for the Junior Springboks from an advancing maul.

Before halftime, England scored from a lineout drive, closing the gap to a one-score game with Slevin’s conversion. In the early second half, England dominated, but South Africa held strong. Afolabi Fasogbon’s excellent turnover within England’s 22 halted a sustained South African attack, and Alex Wills went close to scoring for England.

The game became a battle between the forwards in the middle of the field, with limited opportunities for both teams. South Africa had a chance to break the deadlock with a penalty attempt by Jean Smith in the 67th minute, but it went wide. England finished strongly but failed to convert breaks from Cunningham-South and Wills into points, as South Africa repeatedly capitalized on turnover ball, denying England any scoring chances.

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1 Comment
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Ian 372 days ago

England had their chances but the physicality of the South Africans triumphed. What I found unacceptable was the poor handling by England. Rushed, inaccurate passing under pressure is a coaching issue. I wonder how many tough club games some of these boys have had when skill levels drop so alarmingly under pressure.

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Jon 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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