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Junior Spingbok Head Coach Bafana Nhleko and captain Paul de Villiers believe that the Junior Boks can bounce back from the defeat to Italy to qualify for the World Rugby U20 Championship semi-finals.

The Junior Boks recorded their first loss of the campaign when they went down 34-26 to Italy in Paarl on Thursday. Despite the defeat, the hosts secured a four-try bonus-point and boosted their overall log tally to five points.

Meanwhile in Stellenbosch, where the other Pool C match was staged, Georgia claimed a 20-0 win against Argentina. After two rounds, each of the four teams in Pool C have won one match and lost one, and the race for top spot remains wide open.

The Junior Boks could well top the pool – and qualify for the semi-finals – if they beat Argentina in Athlone on 4 July.

“If your set-piece, kicking game and defence is functioning, you can put yourself into a position to build pressure, and then you can put points on the board,” Nhleko said after the loss to Italy. “You need to be at it for 80 minutes, though.

“Today, we were good at times, scoring some beautiful tries and producing some really strong defensive moments. At others, it wasn’t so great. Unfortunately, Italy were in it for longer, and got the rewards.

“We’ve been watching Italy play in the U20 Six Nations, and we know how good they are. We just weren’t good enough today, in terms of the way we started and the penalties we conceded.

“They got good ascendancy in the maul and put us under pressure. We couldn’t get going as a result. When we did have opportunities, we didn’t take a few of them.”

Captain Paul de Villiers admitted that the players were hurting after the loss. There were aspects of the performance on Thursday, however, that bode well for the final pool game against Argentina.

“We didn’t have the best start. Four days ago against Georgia, it was the other way round. We started off well, then there was a lag phase,” De Villiers said.

“Going forward, we will see what Argentina bring to the table. They’re a proud and passionate country that gets a lot of energy out of their set piece. We’ll dig a bit deeper and work on those aspects ahead of the next game.”

Pool C standings (with points difference) and log points.

1. Argentina (+8) 5

2. South Africa (+2) 5

3. Italy (-20) 5

4. Georgia (+10) 4

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