South Africa wins IRB Junior World Championship

South Africa's "Baby Boks" squad were declared winners of the IRB Junior World Championships in Cape Town's Newlands Stadium on 22 June, when they beat four-time defending champions New Zealand 22-16.

The landmark result meant that for the first time in the five-year history of the annual event, the IRB Junior World Championship title failed to go to New Zealand. The newly-crowned world champions of the under-20 tournament had cause to celebrate further when South African centre Jan Serfontein was named IRB Junior Player of the Year.

The final was played in front of 33,000 rugby fans, the championship's largest crowd yet. However it was not all plain sailing for the local side which suffered a shock 23-19 defeat to Ireland in its first match.

The three-week event is the under-20 version of the Rugby World Cup and is considered the second most important annual fixture for rugby’s governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB). The following teams took part: Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.

In third place was Wales, fourth place Argentina, fifth Ireland, while Italy was awarded the wooden spoon meaning that it has been relegated to next year’s IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, the second tier IRB competition.

The championships kicked off in Cape Town on 4 June, with matches scheduled at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch and at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Stadium in Bellville.

However halfway through the event organisers cancelled all remaining matches at the Danie Craven Stadium whose playing surface was badly damaged by heavy rain. The South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the IRB made the joint decision to move the semi-finals and final to the Newlands stadium, with the matches at the UWC remaining unchanged.