UNDER-20 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Junior Springboks have it all to play for against Argentina, Munster coach Oliver dies in freak accident in Cape Town
The stakes are high on Matchday 3 on Tuesday with a number of teams still in the running for the semifinal spots in the Under-20 Rugby Championship.
But those permutations paled into insignificance after it was confirmed that Greig Oliver, father of Ireland Under-20 scrumhalf Jack, died in a freak paragliding accident in Sea Point, Cape Town, on Monday.
Two tandem paragliders collided close to the landing area on the Sea Point promenade and crashed into the sea.
“NSRI rescue craft from NSRI Bakoven and from NSRI Table Bay, NSRI rescue swimmers, the SA Police Services, WC Government Health EMS rescue squad, City of Cape Town (CoCT) Law Enforcement, Netcare 911 ambulance services and Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services responded.” the National Sea Rescue Institute said in a statement.
“On arrival on the scene the adult male pilot of the tandem paraglider (that had reportedly deployed the reserve parachute) was safely on the shore and he was treated for minor injuries. The tandem passenger, a 58 year old Irish man, was on rocks in the water off-shore of the Sea Point Promenade.
“NSRI rescue swimmers and paramedics reached the man and he was freed from paragliding gear and recovered onto rocks where CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) efforts commenced.
“Despite extensive CPR efforts he was sadly declared deceased by paramedics.”
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) also sent out a statement.
“The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Munster Rugby Elite Performance Officer Greig Oliver following an accident in South Africa on Monday,” the statement read.
“A former Scotland international, Greig was steeped in Munster Rugby in recent years and held a number of coaching roles with Garryowen, Munster ‘A’ and more recently as Elite Performance Officer, a role he held since 2011.
“He was also assistant coach of the Ireland U20 side between 2011-14. Greig was the father of Ireland U20 scrum-half Jack, whom he was supporting in South Africa alongside his family.”
Commenting on the news, IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts said; “On behalf of the Irish rugby community, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Oliver family at this extremely sad time.
“Greig was a hugely popular member of staff and played a key role in the development of many young players during his time at Munster Rugby.
“Today’s news is an unspeakable tragedy and our thoughts are with Greig’s wife Fiona, children Jack and Ciara, and his many friends, family and colleagues. May he rest in peace.”
Rugby goes on
There’s still all to play for in the final round of group-stage matches in the Under-20 Rugby Championship.
All outcomes are still possible in South Africa’s group, Pool C, where all four sides — Argentina, South Africa, Italy and Georgia — are still in contention to top the group and automatically qualify for the semifinals.
The top sides in the three groups qualify for the semifinals while the best-placed second-placed team across the four pools will nab the fourth semifinal place.
It looks likely that the final qualifying spot will come from Pool B where both England and Ireland are on eight points, heading into Matchday 3, having won one match each while drawing 34-34 with each other on Matchday 1.
Pool A is slightly more straightforward, with France — who won the last two editions of the tournament in 2018 and 2019 — odds on to top their group. France are the only team at the Under-20 Championship that have won both their matches, having collected two bonus point wins — against New Zealand and Japan — along the way.
South Africa, Argentina and Italy are all on five points in Pool C with one win and one bonus point each, while Georgia prop up the group, although the European side are only one point behind.
Georgia and Italy start the Matchday 3 action on Tuesday with a clash at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.
A bonus-point win for Georgia, following their shock 20-0 win over Argentina on Matchday 2, will keep them in contention for the semifinals, but they will need the winner of the clash between Argentina and South Africa to not gain a bonus point too.
“We are well aware of what we need to do and that a bonus point win will take us into the semifinals of the tournament, one of our objectives coming into the tournament,” Junior Springbok captain Paul de Villiers said on Monday.
“The reality is that this is a must-win game for us, and we are only going to focus on the processes that we need to take us to that win.
“We know the win is a must and four tries a requirement, but rather than look for outcomes, we will focus on how to get to that outcome.”
South Africa struggled at the set pieces in their opening two matches against Georgia and Italy. They will face a similar challenge on Tuesday against Argentina whose traditional stronghold has always been the lineout and scrum.
“They are a good side, in fact pretty much like Georgia and Italy when it comes to style of play, with all getting massive energy from their set piece and they love mauls and scrums,” De Villiers said.
“We coped with that in our opener against Georgia but did not do the same against Italy and we paid the price. Now we get another opportunity to right the wrongs and we are keen to embrace that.”
Coach Bafana Nhleko reflected the thoughts of his side’s leader, acknowledging that both teams will be fighting for redemption at Cape Town’s Athlone Stadium in the final match of the day.
“We know Argentina would have been stung by their defeat to Georgia, but so were we in losing to Italy. The squad is determined to make up for it, and the fantastic support so far from the locals and this performance should reflect that,” said Nhleko.
England and Ireland have both been enterprising in their outings in the Western Cape, in Pool B. Ireland made light work of Australia, thumping them 30-10 on Matchday 2, while England humbled Fiji 53-7.
The neighbouring countries now swap opponents on Matchday 3. A win for both teams will secure both their passages to the semifinals — the side with the best points difference will finish top while the other will finish as the best second-placed side in the groups.
Ireland take on Fiji at 1.30pm at Danie Craven Stadium while England play Australia half an hour later at Athlone Stadium.
In Pool A, Wales will have to upset favourites France at 4.30pm at Athlone Stadium to advance to the semifinals. This is after France crushed New Zealand 35-14 on Matchday 2 and New Zealand edged Wales 27-26 on Matchday 1.
It’s hard to see anyone stopping the dominant French at this stage. France have a full house of points (10) as well as an incredible points difference of 84.
There are two more matchdays after Tuesday — Sunday, 9 July, and Friday, 14 July — where all 12 teams will play to determine their standings.
The team that finishes 12th will be relegated to the Under-20 Trophy next season with the winner of the Under-20 Trophy promoted to the Under-20 Championship. DM
Full match schedule for Tuesday, 4 July
Danie Craven Stadium
11am: Italy v Georgia
1.30pm: Ireland v Fiji
4pm: New Zealand v Japan
2pm: Australia v England
4.30pm: France v Wales
7pm: South Africa v Argentina
Junior Springboks for Tuesday’s game
15. Hakeem Kunene 14. Jurenzo Julius 13. Katlego Letebele 12. Ethan Hooker 11. Michael Annies 10. Jean Smith 9. Imad Khan 8. Cornѐ Beets 7. Ghudian van Reenen 6. Paul de Villiers (captain) 5. JF van Heerden 4. Coetzee le Roux 3. Dian Heunis 2. Juann Else 1. Cornè Lavagna Replacements: 16. SJ Kotze 17. Phatu Ganyane 18. Zachary Porthen 19. Jannes Potgieter 20. Abulele Ndabambi 21. Asad Moos 22. Damian Markus 23. Regan Izaks