The USA U20s were dismantled systemically by South Africa 97-0 in the opening match of the Junior World Championships Saturday in La Roche-sur-Yon, France.
The Americans were outmatched in virtually every aspect, and were fortunate not to give up triple digits, as the game ended with South African knocking on in-goal.
South Africa learned early that the Americans did not have the pace to match fullback Cheslin Kolbe, or wing Seabelo Senatla, to name just two. Both young men routinely blazed through the USA's fractured defense to set up tries.
The American tackling was poor, and it appeared the players were out of position at times. But they also had to contend with a powerful South African forward pack that pounded up the middle, sucking in defenders, and leaving the USA backs scrambling to contain odd-man rushes.
The Junior All Americans did have a few bright spots. But often their attacks were stopped by knock-ons or turnovers in the ruck. They received no favors from referee Shuhei Kubo of Japan, who seemed to have a fluid definition of releasing the tackled player. But that just helped South Africa score their tries a little faster.
The USA might have had a try in the first half when center Mike Te'o almost intercepted a pass in his 22. Later in the second half Te'o managed to nab a South African pass and ran 65 meters before being caught. He had support, but the South Africa defense was quick and did enough to stop the USA.
Te'o almost scored at the end of the game, also. Some good work, especially in the maul, but the USA, got them near the tryline, and from a tap penalty Te'o seemed good to go over, but dropped the ball.
It was that kind of day for the young Eagles. They learned what it's like to play against a team of professional rugby players, and while they played extremely hard, and didn't give up, their defense was poor, execution on key set pieces inconsistent, and South Africa looked bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletic.
South Africa U20s 97
Tries: Smit, Kolbe, Senatla 4, Steenkamp, Geduld 2, Du Toit, Kriel 2, Willemse 2, Obi 2
Convs: Pollard, Du Preez 6
USA U20s 0