The Junior Springboks produced a remarkable second-half performance when they beat France 37-15 to take the bronze medal at the World Rugby Under-20 championships in Tbilisi, Georgia on Sunday.
SA, who were 7-8 down at halftime, scored four tries and 30 points in the second half.
The victory completed a rare triple for South African rugby over France, after SA A beat the French Barbarians on Friday and the Springboks beat France in the second Test on Saturday.
It was a deserved bronze medal for the Junior Boks, who at times played some outstanding rugby throughout the tournament. They came within three minutes of reaching the final before England broke their hearts in a tough semifinal, but the way they bounced back for the dreaded third-fourth match said a lot about their character.
Coach Chean Roux made four changes during the match and was not scared to ring changes early after the scrum and lineout struggled. L ock Ruben van Heerden was replaced by Reinhard Nothnagel after 30 minutes even though he had opened the scoring with a try in the 16th minute.
France struck back with a try from hooker Peato Mauvuka and hit the front five minutes before halftime when flyhalf Baptiste Couilloud landed a penalty. But after the break it was one-way traffic towards the French line as the Bok forwards took control with outstanding No8 Juarno Augustus leading the charge.
Augustus is one of five nominees for player of the tournament and he did not disappoint with another brilliant display that included the team’s final try in the 73rd minute.
The Junior Boks took the lead minutes into the second half when hooker Johan Grobbelaar scored out wide.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok converted and then added a well-struck penalty to push the lead to nine points. France’s challenge died when replacement centre David Brits intercepted from 50m and raced away to kill off the contest.
Grobbelaar grabbed a second try before Augustus completed SA’s scoring.