Louis Koen said on Friday that the Junior Springbok team were determined to finish the World Rugby U20 Championship on a winning note when they meet New Zealand in the bronze playoff in Béziers on Sunday.
The SAU20’s returned to the training field on Friday morning following their heart-breaking one-point defeat against England in the semi-final, and the SA Rugby High Performance manager and Junior Springbok assistant coach said the players were in the right frame of mind for the challenge.
“The guys had two days of recovery and a little time away from rugby, so we got back to training this morning,” said Koen. “We had to overcome the disappointment of going down in the semi-final, although it is still going to hurt for a long time. But it was important to get our minds right for the next game.
“There is an excitement in the camp that we are playing against New Zealand, and this is a fantastic opportunity because not many players in South Africa have experienced this. So the players are keen to get out there again and finish the tournament on a high.”
Koen expected a challenging encounter against New Zealand and said the Junior Springboks had to deliver a solid performance against the defending champions.
“New Zealand play a fast game and they use their scrums and lineouts as a platform to attack,” said Koen. “They like to bring their big backs into the game as quickly as possible, while they also have a lot of skill in their backline and beautiful attacking plays.
“They play a kicking game from inside their half, and apply a lot of pressure by keeping the ball in the opposition’s half, so we need to be ready to cover their kicking game and we have to be organised on defence.”
Looking at their own game, Koen was confident that the SAU20’s had what it takes to win the bronze medal, but he said it was important to deliver an 80-minute performance.
“We have had our good moments, but obviously we are not starting games well, which we need to rectify,” said Koen. “When we wake up, we really play some good rugby.
“Against England we played in wet conditions so it was difficult to get the ball wide, but hopefully it will be dry on Sunday, so we can bring our exciting backs into play. If we can put a full 80-minute performance together, this team could play their potential.”
Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux will announce his team for the clash on Saturday.