IRB Under 20 Championship Semi-final: England v South Africa Preview

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We preview the IRB Under 20 Championship semi-final being contested between hosts England and South Africa.

We’ve reached the business end of the 2016 IRB Under 20 Championship and thankfully for us South Africans, the ‘Baby Boks have managed to make it through to the semi-finals.

Dawie Theron’s men will now lock horns with tournament hosts England in what’s is sure to be a hotly contested affair.
So can the Junior Boks make it through to the final or will the hosts continue their unbeaten run in the tournament?

England v South Africa | Monday 20 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 20:45

To Win (80 mins)
England 5/10 |Draw 18/1 | South Africa 17/10
England (-4.5) 9/10 | South Africa (+4.5) 9/10

The hosts have been the most impressive side at the tournament by a country mile. They managed to rack up 14 pool points – the highest of any of the team – on their way to topping Pool B. While that’s a rather magnificent achievement itself, the points differential they managed was even more impressive. Jon Callard’s men scored 109 points during the pool phase while only conceding 23, which left them with a points differential of positive 86.

Yes, the English weren’t in the most star-studded of pools – the Scots and Italians are perennial also-rans while the Junior Wallabies, despite having a plethora of players with Super Rugby experience, failed to fire – but their game management was still rather impressive.

They opened their campaign with a 48-10 hammering of European rivals Italy. That game illustrated the attacking prowess this young English side possess while their 44-0 victory over the Scots in round two demonstrated just how good their defensive system is.

Their final pool match was more a battle of attrition than anything else. With the rain teeming down in Manchester, and the ball slipperier than a bar of soap, the English mauled and tackled their way to a four-point victory over the Australians.

So we know that they were impressive during their run to the semi-finals but how will this English side fair against a stronger calibre of opponent? We’ll if their forward pack continues to fire and young Harry Mallinder carries on with his impressive goal kicking, then they may well be able to get one over the Junior ‘Boks.

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South Africa
It’s been a tough old road for Dawie Theron’s men but they’ve managed to make it to the semi-finals. They opened their campaign with a game against a fired up Japanese side that gave them a real scare during the first half of the opener. The Baby ‘Boks did however put in solid second half showing that saw them to a comfortable 30 point victory.

Dawie Theron’s men also got their second game of the tournament off to a slow start, but unlike the game against Japan the Baby ‘Boks were unable to turn the game on its head and ended up going down by six points to the Argentines.

That defeat left Dawie Theron’s charges staring down the barrel of an early exit from the tournament. An inspired performance against the French would put those fears to bed, however, as the Baby Boks managed to secure a bonus point victory which saw them advance to the semi-finals as the best second-placed pool side.

It hasn’t been the most inspiring of campaigns from a Junior Bok side and they will certainly have to lift a lot of facets of their game if they are to make it to the final.

One area of concern for Dawie Theron is his side’s discipline. The South African youngsters have given away far too many penalties at the tournament and if they continue in that vein today you can bet your bottom dollar that England will punish them for their indiscretions.

Verdict: England 5/10
It pains me to say this but I think this English side will beat the Baby ‘Boks tonight. The tournament hosts are playing some brilliant rugby and are such a well-rounded unit. Back the hosts on the straight win at 5/10.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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