England and South Africa are no strangers to each other in IRB Junior World Championship history, having met twice in the semi finals and again in last year’s third place play-off in Argentina, when it was a case of third time lucky for the Baby Boks.
This time, the two sides will come face to face in the Pool C decider on Saturday with whoever loses at the Stadio Plebsicito in Padova knowing their title dreams could evaporate depending on other results.
Christian Wade was part of the England side beaten 27-22 by South Africa last year and is relishing the chance to play the Baby Boks again, having found his try-scoring form with a hat-trick in a 39-18 win over Scotland in the last round.
“It’s always going to be good to play other teams [than we’re used to], but the way the southern hemisphere teams play is similar to how we have played this year,” explained the wing.
“We like to play a pretty pacey game, they are very good at their basics and play with a lot of pace at the breakdown, no slow balls, that style of play and we are really looking forward to playing a team like that and it will be a big test for us.
“I think it will be similar to last year’s match in terms of the type of side they had last year and what we have got this year, pretty physical with a pacey backline. Last year we probably didn’t reach the target, but if we get it right this year then we have got a chance.”
Wade, the former Sevens flyer, knows that England will have to produce their best to beat South Africa and guarantee their semi final spot, something they have not yet done in battling past familiar foes Ireland and Scotland.
A stepping stone
“I was pretty happy with my performance in the last game, my first in the competition,” admitted Wade, who was beaten to the honour of scoring the first hat-trick of JWC 2011 by flanker Sam Cane in New Zealand’s 92-0 rout of Wales.
“I am pleased with the way we played [against Ireland] and from the team point of view we have not reached our full potential yet and still have a lot to work on for Saturday when we play South Africa.
“From looking at our goals and analysing it there is more to come from us as a team, we have just been showing glimpses of what we can do. It’s just about getting composure and consistency for the full 80 minutes and hopefully that should come.
“South Africa are a big, strong, physical team and very pacey. We are going to need to get everything right and mentally the whole way there and have total concentration and focus and do the basics well. If we do the basics well we will be in there.
“The ultimate aim is we want to do our best. We came off a good Six Nations, but to come into a World Cup it’s a different ball game. We are taking it one game at a time and trying to get as close to 100 percent performance in each game.
“This is the next stepping stone to the final, which is what we want, but we are not looking too far ahead, taking each game at a time. It’s knockout rugby effectively from now on and if you look too far ahead we may miss that stepping stone.”
A defeat, especially without any bonus point, will leave England or South Africa sweating on the outcome of the Pool B decider between Australia and France in Treviso to find out whether they have done enough to qualify for the semi finals as the best runner up across the three pools.