Springboks under-20 coach Dawie Theron said his team’s ability to absorb pressure was the key factor which led to a thrilling 32-25 semi-final win over New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday.
“It was like a proper Test match out there. It was full of tension, drama and excitement and I’m immensely proud of the boys,” Theron said at QBE Stadium after the game.
“We kept our composure and I knew we were always in the game despite going behind at half-time and twice again in the second half.”
South Africa will play defending champions England in the Junior World Championship (JWC) final on Friday at Eden Park, after hooker Corniel Els scored from a driving maul in the 78th minute to steal victory for the visitors.
“Credit must go the players. They showed huge fighting spirit and great composure to close out the game like that,” Theron added.
“Their composure can be attributed to what we do in training. During our sessions we keep the intensity high and always put them under pressure, because that is what you have to do to win games such as these.”
With sudden death extra-time looming and the scores locked at 25-25, the Junior Springboks produced a dominant driving maul which saw Els dot down in the corner to send the visiting South African crowd into raptures.
Theron, who guided the Junior Boks to the JWC title in 2012, said his forward pack laid the foundation for the come-from-behind victory.
“We always knew that New Zealand would target our mauls so we devised a plan to counter them.
“They performed much better in the lineouts. However, we had faith in our approach we also kicked much better in the second half, which forced them to play differently.
“Our physical strength up front and the way we controlled our set pieces were vital and in the end it was a fantastic maul which secured us the winning try.”
The veteran coach and former player was quick to point out that the Boks still had plenty of hard work in the coming days before the team are allowed to get carried away.
“We will enjoy this win but we know that we haven’t won anything yet. England were outstanding against Ireland in the other semi-final and from tomorrow we will prepare very carefully for the final.” – Sapa