We caught up with IRB Junior World Championship 2012 Ambassador Ashwin Willemse immediately after South Africa beat New Zealand 22-16 in the final to find out his views on the record-breaking tournament.
Ashwin, how do you sum up that final, South Africa beating New Zealand?
I think the best way to describe it is to say it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! It is one of those things where I don’t think words will do justice to the entire atmosphere, the way in which the game was played by both teams.
I think finals are supposed to be epic, I think this epitomises what finals is all about and if any team wants to win, the team they want to win against is the defending champions and the entire tournament, the dramatic finish to the final, I believe this is why we come out in support of this tournament.
It had been billed as the dream final, the hosts against the defending champions, and it really did live up to that didn’t it?
This is a dream come true on more than one level, for the players, for the tournament, for the future of the tournament. I believe every South African rugby player’s dream as he grows up is to play against the All Blacks, to face the haka, and I believe it is the same in New Zealand, every player in New Zealand wants to play against South Africa and this is what it is all about.
These two teams playing in the final, the defending champions against the host nation, it couldn’t have lived up to a better final and the path to the final was similar for both teams and it just shows again the strength of the other teams participating in the tournament.
You had the likes of Argentina beating Australia, beating France. You had the likes of Wales going unbeaten throughout the round robins only to lose to New Zealand in the semi finals, in a similar path followed by Argentina and that shows you how rugby is progressing, not just in the southern hemisphere or the northern hemisphere but the whole world so to speak.
It also suggests that the future of world rugby is a very bright thing?
It is indeed. I am glad I am wearing sunglasses whenever I look at the future of world rugby because it is unbelievable. I believe any sports' lover, rugby in particularly, you can only be but happy the progress the Game it has made over the past couple of years.
Ten years ago I was a player in the inaugural Under 21 World Championship, for me today, sitting in the commentary booth talking about the players on the field, I can tell you as a player, as an Ambassador, as a rugby lover, as a supporter I am proud, I am happy and I am ecstatic to be part of the broader rugby family.
You yourself are a Rugby World Cup winner, in France in 2007, can you imagine what these guys are going through having won the Junior World Championship on home soil?
In hindsight I have come to realise there is no way you can ever relive that moment, this is a moment that goes in and goes to that special place where you can only reach this at moments where you have that out of body experience.
You could see the way in which the players were putting their bodies on the line, on both sides, the way they were playing, the way the crowd got behind the boys, you could see that this was not just any game, it was a game where players realised they are playing for more than themselves, for more than their pride, they are representing more than an individual, more than a team, a nation but also ambitions and dreams of future rugby players around the world.
It’s going to be difficult to top this tournament in France next year?
I think that we have now set the trend in South Africa and the French can only better this one and one would hope it does happen and what an epic final it will be next year in France when you find the defending champions South Africa up against France in the final!
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