New Zealand as a nation may be yet to lose a match in the history of the Junior World Championship, but Baby Blacks coach Dave Rennie is all too aware of the threat posed by South Africa’s Under 20s ahead of their semi final in Rosario.
The two sides, who have never met in the tournament before, have had vastly different journeys to this stage with a slightly older New Zealand side finishing top seed after comfortable wins against Fiji, Samoa and Wales in Pool A.
South Africa, on the other hand, made easy work of their Pool C matches against Tonga and Scotland but came out on the wrong end of an enthralling decider against Australia, losing 42-35 to qualify for the semi finals as the best placed runner up.
Clearly eager to match New Zealand’s pace out wide, South Africa coach Eric Sauls has made just two changes to the side that started against Australia with Branco du Preez, the shortest player in the tournament, coming in to the centre and Nico Scheepers getting his first call up on the wing.
New Zealand have made only three changes to the side that beat Wales 43-10 with prop Angus Taavao-Matau, number 8 Rory Grice and centre Star Timu getting starts. The biggest plus for Rennie, though, is that Julian Savea, the tournament’s leading try scorer with six, has recovered from a knock to his hip in the first half against Wales.
New Zealand coach Dave Rennie:
“South Africa pose a lot more problems for us. Obviously they have a very big pack and they’ve got a lot of wheels in the backs so you know they’ve got the ability to play both those sorts of games. We won’t stray too much from what we’ve been trying to do, if we can get some good go forward ball then hopefully we can stretch them a bit. You’ve got to front from a set piece point of view and they’re a very good side in that regard.
“The Africans have got a number of really good players. We’re happy with some of our boys who have stepped up and we certainly have got guys starting in this game who if you’d asked us maybe five or six weeks ago we would have thought they’d maybe be bench at best so it’s good. We want competition for places and hopefully that’ll help us get a good performance.”
New Zealand captain Tyler Bleyendaal:
“South Africa is a big side, a lot of pace and they are going to be a tough team to play against. I guess we are looking forward to the challenge, we can’t wait really. Everyone is feeling it at this stage of the tournament, three games gone plus whatever warm up matches, four day turnarounds, every team is going to be sore, you have just got to play off those little niggles. They had a tough match but I am sure they will have no problem fronting up.
“We are going to have to knuckle down and we are going to have to be physical too, we are going to have to match it and just try to dominate as best we can. Take it to them early on and just stay in the fight and keep fighting.”
New Zealand prop Willie Ioane:
“It’s going to be a big, physical game like always and like all the other South African teams they’re just going to try and out muscle us and just try and give a head clash and you know the boys are all ready for that, the physical match and we’ve just got to front up and see how it goes.”
South Africa coach Eric Sauls:
“It will be physical with the teams playing, especially with New Zealand and their experience of being world champions. Certainly I don’t think they will come just to defend the title. It will be a very tough one, it won’t be easy.
“We have to stand up, it was obviously disappointing after the defeat. We had to pick up the boys. I think it was very intense, one of the great games, but we made too many mistakes, especially on defence and we have worked on that.”
South Africa centre Jaco Taute:
“We want to focus on what we are going to do so we can control the controllables and just give our best on the field and bring our game to the match and see how they respond to us.
“We haven’t watched New Zealand in depth so far so we don’t really know about their key players or anything like that but we are aware New Zealand is a very good team and a very proud rugby nation. They are ranked number one in the world so we know we’re going to be up against tough competition so we’ve prepared very well and I think we are up for the challenge.”
Courtesy of the IRBTweet