Baby Boks must remember 1995
SOUTH Africa and New Zealand do not often meet in a final of an international rugby competition, but when they do it is always a momentous occasion.
Before the Baby Boks tackle the Baby Blacks in the Junior World Championship finals in Cape Town tonight, for inspiration they could study the tape of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.
Assistant coach Brendan Venter compared the Baby Boks' win over England in the group stages with that triumph over the mighty All Blacks 17 years ago. But, if his boys win tonight, he will be perfectly justified.
For the first time in the tournament's short history, both finalists suffered unexpected defeats against northern hemisphere opposition in the earlier rounds - South Africa to Ireland and New Zealand to Wales, and both teams need to put those shocks behind them.
Bok coach Dawie Theron has, surprisingly, benched player of the tournament nominee Shaun Adendorff in favour of Wiaan Liebenberg, who will captain the side. Exciting speedster Raymond Rhule, two-try hero in the semifinal against Argentina, starts at right wing in place of the injured Paul Jordaan.
"I feel for Shaun because he was one of our standouts in the tournament," Theron said. "But, with William [Small-Smith] also out injured, we needed to have our captain back and on the field from the start. Shaun will, I hope, make a significant contribution from the bench."
Handre Pollard's reliable decision-making at flyhalf, and Jan Serfontein's hard running in the centre will be crucial in pegging the New Zealanders back. However, South Africa cannot afford to kick away valuable possession.
Both teams have grown in confidence as the tournament has progressed and both have cleaned up their set-piece play, which should make for an intriguing forward battle.
The Baby Blacks have won the tournament four times since its inception in 2008 and had not lost a game before the 9-6 defeat to Wales. The dry weather is expected to suit both teams' running game plans.
The Junior All Blacks won 36-7 the last time these two teams met, two years ago.