This is the first time that Ireland and South Africa have met in the Junior World Cup and the South African’s have a fairly impressive record over the four tournaments to date finishing third in each of the three previous IRB Junior World Championships. Ireland have finished 9th, 8th and 9th in their previous outings.
The Baby Boks have won nine out of 10 matches played in the Pool stages, with the one defeat coming against Australia in 2010. Ireland have faired less well winning only three out of 10 matches played in the Pool stages and have lost the last four against England (twice), France and Argentina.
The South Africans have scored 91 tries in the 16 matches played, third highest after New Zealand and Australia whereas Ireland appear to be kings of the kick, converting 42 penalties, which is more than any other team. Ireland equaled the record for successful penalty kicks with six in the opening match against England, the fourth time this has been achieved at the IRB Junior World Championships.
It looks like things could be quite lively in the second half with the Boks’ having a second half average points difference 14.6, the second highest behind New Zealand and compares with 10.1 in the first half. Ireland though are no second half slouches either scoring 57.5% of their points during that period – only New Zealand have a higher second half percentage.
Tale of the tape:
South Africa are one month per man older than Ireland and there is nothing to choose between the two forward units on height in the line out. South Africa are five kg per man heavier in the scrum than their Irish counterparts.
South Africa second row Eben Etzebeth is the tallest man on the pitch at 203 cm (6ft 7ins) and stands five cm above Ireland’s tallest player, Michael Kearney.
The combined weight of the South Africa pack is 881 kg, which is the heaviest of the 12 selected forward line ups in the second round of matches and gives them a 39 kg advantage over Ireland in the scrum.
Three of South Africa’s starting line up played in the 2010 IRB Junior World Championships; scrum half Luaan Jacobs makes his first start after being on the replacements bench in the last three matches (including this year’s opening game against Scotland); centre Francois Venter started four matches and scored a try against Tonga and wing Wandile Mjekevu started all five matches, scoring three tries.
Ireland have five players in their starting line up with previous experience in the IRB Junior World Championships; captain and hooker Niall Annett played in all five matches last year and scored tries against both Samoa and Scotland; flanker Jordi Murphy started two matches as did centre Brendan Macken; Andrew Conway, who starts on the wing on Tuesday, started every match at full back last year and scored five tries, including a hat trick against Scotland and one in the defeat to England. He added to his tally with Ireland’s only try in the defeat to England in Friday’s opening match. James McKinney starts at fly half and has kicked 46 points for Ireland in the IRB Junior World Championships.
It’s another big ask for the young Irish lads but this really is a team that should be setting the bench mark for future championships. A good mix of experience and talent who showed against England, particularly in the second half once they got going, that they can mix it with the big boys up front.
If they can get rid of the nerves at the start and sort out the lineout this time round they genuinely have a chance to take this one.