His first experience of the IRB Junior World Championship was the stuff that dreams are made of as South Africa won a maiden title on home soil and he was named IRB Junior Player of the Year, but Jan Serfontein is hungry for more success in this year’s tournament in France.
The centre scored a try in the final as South Africa beat New Zealand 22-16 before a record crowd of 35,000 at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, giving the 19-year-old a memory he admits he will never forget.
“It was a great experience and something that I will never forget,” Serfontein told Total Rugby. “Especially because it was in South Africa in front of a home crowd, the final was 35,000 people.
“I think it’s any 20-year-old’s dream to be able to play in front of such a big crowd against the All Blacks, representing your country and when we won it, it was just the cherry on the cake.
“I think growing up you always watch the big test of South Africa against New Zealand. You always dream of playing in a test like that and beating the Baby All Blacks in the final was a huge achievement for us.
Really big challenge
“If we can start getting that experience at a young age it can only help us in the future.”
Serfontein is one of only three players from the squad that ended New Zealand’s four-year grip on the distinctive trophy that are eligible to play in the 2013 tournament and he knows it won’t be easy to defend the title in France from 5-23 June.
“There’s three of us left from last year and I think it will help a lot for the team this year that we’ve been in the situation, we’ve been in the final, we’ve got the experience now and we know what it takes to win a tournament like this, so we’ll just give our experience and share it with the guys to make us a better team.
“I’ve always liked France and obviously touring overseas is always a highlight for us South Africans. It’s something that we will look forward to, but our first job is to defend our title.
“It is definitely going to be more difficult to defend the title. I think home advantage played a big role in us winning it last year, so this year is going to be a really big challenge.”
South Africa Under 20s have already had a number of camps as coach Dawie Theron plots their title defence, the most recent including three matches against three university teams, but Serfontein can already see the benefits in his game from his JWC 2012 exploits.
“I’ve grown in confidence quite a bit after the World Cup. I think it gave me the confidence to do things that I wouldn’t normally do, but also being named player of the tournament made me a marked man in local competition but I think that’s what makes a good player, being able to stand up to the occasion.”
Serfontein is hoping to force his way into Super Rugby reckoning for the Bulls over the coming months, but after another taste of the Junior World Championship he has a bigger dream.
“It’s obviously every boys dream to play for the Springboks one day and it’s still a dream of mine to wear that green and gold jersey, and the only way to get there is through hard work so that’s what it’s going to take.
“One thing that I live according to is live your dream and persevere, and by that it actually means you mustn’t limit your dream.
“You must dream big things and when you think of those things you set yourself you must actually go out and work towards them and persevere because it might not be an easy road to there.
South Africa will face a tricky pool at JWC 2013 with host nation France, three-time runners up England and IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 winners USA awaiting them with only the Pool A winner guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.