Cardiff’s front row duo of Rhys Barratt and Efan Daniel applauded their side’s physicality as Wales battled past Italy to book their place in the U20 Six Nations Summer Series final on Tuesday.
After maintaining a 100 per cent record in Pool B, with further wins over Scotland and Georgia, South Africa are the task awaiting Byron Hayward’s men in Treviso.
Christ Tshiunza and Nathan Evans both crossed the whitewash in the win over hosts Azzurri, as Barratt and Daniel were joined in the matchday squad by Cardiff team-mates Cameron Winnett, Mason Grady, Mackenzie Martin and incoming tighthead Adam Williams.
Daniel, who made his senior debut for the Blue and Blacks last season, is confident that his side can cause problems for the Junior Boks in their bid for silverware.
“The boys dug in well, and it was brilliant from the whole team. We set out a plan of beating them physically and we did that in the first half and it rattled them,” said the hooker, who signed his first professional deal with the club earlier this year.
“We went in at half time, and Italy’s chat at half time would’ve probably been about being up against it and having met their match.
“But we started strong again in the second half, matching them physically. Yes they got a try but we were in control during the whole game.
“Physically, we were on top of them and I don’t think they liked it.
“We stuck to what we wanted to do. We had a game-plan but we were all on the same page and that’s what got us through. It’s not just one to fifteen, it was the whole squad who knew what we wanted to do and executed it well.
“Of course there are stuff in games that won’t go your own way, but you can’t moan with that. We adapted well, overcame it and the way we came through that pressure was absolutely brilliant.
“People often over-look the front row, but we play a massive part in the set-piece. At scrum time, we knew Italy would be good and looking to be dominant, and they did come at us. But we adapted, and I didn’t particularly agree with some of the decisions.
“But that’s rugby at the end of the day. I thought the front row were immense, both in the set piece and around the park.
“We dug in deep, and that showed in the celebrations at the end. As a team, to close out a close game like that gives us massive confidence.
“I’m confident we have the ability to do something in the final. Watching South Africa, they’re a good outfit but no team is perfect.
“There are weaknesses in their game, and we’ll sit down over the coming days to chat about them and how we can exploit them. It will be tough, we’ll have to step up again but we have the capability to win.
“There are tired bodies out there, not necessarily from the fitness but more from the physicality of the games so far. But when the bodies are hurting, the replacements coming on have also done well and played a massive part.”
Loosehead Barratt credited the impact of Wales’ leaders in closing out tight games against Italy and Georgia and believes the team effort has played a crucial part in their success to date.
The academy prop added: “We knew we’d be up against a big, physical pack who had a good driving line-out and a good scrum. All week we said that we had to be dominant, match them and go over them and to be fair, the boys did that.
“Italy kept coming and coming, but we matched them and dug deep. The boys put their bodies on the line and it paid off in the end.
“It was a great try by Christ and that momentum shift going into half time was positive. We were in control and knew that we’d have to come out firing in the second half.
“We’ve worked hard on our defence in training, everyone knows their role and did the basics well. There’s a lot of talk to help each other out in those situations.
“The leaders led and we all followed them. Everyone calmed down in the final moments and fair play to the likes of Joe Hawkins, Dafydd Jenkins and Christ, who took control.
“We all listened and we all bought in. They lead from the front, and they’re top quality players.
“But we buy into it together as a team effort. We work well together to provide a platform up front.
“We know that South Africa are a dangerous team but we’re all in a positive place now and know what we want to do. The aim is to beat them now.”