While all eyes will be on the semi finals at Newlands on Sunday, there is still plenty for the other eight teams to play for at the IRB Junior World Championship 2012, particularly the quartet battling to avoid relegation to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy next year.
Samoa, Scotland and Italy are still searching for their first victory of the tournament and have all been in this predicament before, needing one win in their final two matches to avoid exiting the elite tier of Under 20 rugby.
Fiji, by contrast, have never been in this position before but have been the most impressive of the quartet at JWC 2012, beating Samoa 15-3 in round two and then giving New Zealand a fright, becoming the only team to cross their try-line in this tournament.
The two ninth to 12th place semi finals will bring together sides very familiar with each other, the battle for Pacific Islands pride as Fiji and Samoa again come face to face and the all-European affair between Scotland and Italy.
Fiji will be keen to repeat their victory over Samoa to ensure their place in the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 in France, a result which would leave the Samoans needing to win on the final day to avoid an immediate return to the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Scots do their homework
Samoa have certainly found life difficult on their return to the Championship after winning the Trophy in Georgia last year, failing to score a try and accumulating just six points in their three pool matches while conceding 24 tries and 152 points.
Scotland have shown glimpses of good play in patches after being outclassed by Australia 67-12 and know they will face a tough task against a strong Italy pack, who have caused England and Ireland problems at times in the pool stages.
“We have picked our most experienced side for the Italy match,” explained Scotland attack coach Bryan Easson, of the eight changes from the loss to Argentina which include the return of captain Harry Leonard and his half back partner Murray McConnell.
“We have done our homework on the Italians and we know that their forwards are formidable. We have shifted Gary Graham into the second row because of his work-rate and tackle count and Callum Reid onto the flank because of the pace he plays the game at. We believe this variation will work better in attacking the Italians’ monstrous scrum.
Battling for survival
“We have to get the set piece right, move their front five around and play with intensity in order to win this match.”
The two sides met on the final weekend of the Under 20 Six Nations in March, Leonard scoring a last minute try to snatch a 20-17 victory and condemn the Italians to the wooden spoon despite having led for virtually the entire match in Calvisano.
Italy will therefore be keen for revenge and commentator Willie Lose believes they could get it with his prediction being that Samoa and Scotland will be the ones left battling for JWC survival on 22 June.
“If I look back over the three pool matches of the respective sides I would have to say that Fiji is probably the best of the four that are there. I think Fiji, having beaten Samoa, have been very competitive against New Zealand and have shown they want to be here.
“For me, the two teams that have been disappointing, and I think will be playing in that 11th and 12th spot, are Scotland and Samoa. Samoa got the promotion to come up the grade this year, but they can’t compete at the set pieces ... and if can’t compete at the set pieces you are always going to struggle in this game and sadly that is what they are learning along the way.”
European pride at stake
Another all-European tussle will follow these two matches at the University of Western Cape Stadium in Cape Town as England will look to repeat their narrow win over Ireland in the pool stages and guarantee themselves a top six finish.
England are already guaranteed their worst finish at a Junior World Championship having failed to reach the semi finals for the first time, and coach Rob Hunter has made a number of changes to face Ireland, a side they beat 20-15 in round two after a strong second half.
“The conditions were pretty poor last time we played each other,” admitted captain Chris Walker. “Hopefully on a dry patch we’ll be able to play more of an expansive game, but this will be the third time we’ve played the Irish this year and we know what a good side they are.
“They pushed us hard a week ago and we’re looking forward to going out there and giving it our best. We’re pretty down after the loss against South Africa but good teams learn from their defeats and we’re hoping to bounce back against Ireland.”
Victory for Ireland will ensure their best finish, regardless of the result on the final match day as they have never placed higher than eighth before, and coach Mike Ruddock has also made a raft of changes after resting key players for the win over Italy.
Fly half JJ Hanrahan, his half back partner Kieran Marmion and captain and hooker Niall Scannell are among those returning to the starting line-up for Ireland, who would have been in the semi finals had South Africa not scored four tries against England.
France hope for repeat performance
The other teams battling for fifth to eighth places are France and Australia, who met only four days ago in what had been expected to be a Pool C decider before Argentina rewrote the script by beating both title contenders.
France, just as they were 12 months earlier, were too strong for Australia, playing with the flair and panache associated with French teams on their day to win comfortably 31-7. It was not enough to reach the semi finals though, France losing out to New Zealand point differential for the best runner up spot after both finished on 11 points.
“It was a very, very nice performance from the French team and I think that the players can be proud of what they’ve done,” France manager Fabien Pelous said after that win. “They have put a lot of heart into it and it paid off.
“They played especially with a lot of pragmatism because we had noticed that this Australian team didn’t defend too well on the opponents’ lines, so we took that to our advantage to play a deep game from our side and we played a good game in the end.”
Australia are the youngest team in the tournament with half of them eligible to return in 2013, but much had still been expected from them their blend of players with Super Rugby and HSBC Sevens World Series experience.
However, the 11-try rout of Scotland has been followed by losses to Argentina and France, leaving Australia in the position of needing to win both their remaining matches to avoid recording their worst ever ranking in the Junior World Championship.