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South Africa second row Connor Evans warned their Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series Finals Day opponents Wales that the best is yet to come for the Junior Springboks, writes Josh Graham in Treviso.
The Junior Boks blitzed all before them in Pool A, beating England, Ireland and France to set-up a cross-Pool clash against the only other undefeated side and Pool B winners Wales in Treviso on Tuesday night.
Only one team can finish their stint in Italy unbeaten and despite already showcasing plenty of terrific rugby, Evans hopes his side can peak against a Wales side that will provide a physical challenge with the influential Exeter Chiefs duo Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins packing down against him in the engine room.
The 20-year-old said: “I’m very excited. These occasions don’t happen that often. Missing last year and the year before [due to Covid] it’s very exciting for us..
“When we got called up to the Junior Springbok camp, we trained for a couple of months without even knowing if there was going to be a tournament.
“Then we heard we were going to come to Italy and being here is certainly very special after all the uncertainty we have experienced.
“We know they have some big forwards in their pack and they really want to come at us for the full 80. The thing about Wales is that they never give up.
“We are very pleased about what we’ve done so far, but the exciting thing is I personally don’t think our team has reached our full potential.
“We have been playing some great rugby, but we aren’t where we want to be, so hopefully we can show that on Finals Day.”
Evans plays his rugby for Western Province in the Currie Cup and made his United Rugby Championship debut for the Stormers in April.
Fittingly Evans’ first appearance came off the bench in the 29-13 win at home to the Ospreys, so he has experience of facing Welsh opposition on the big stage as he bids farewell to the Under-20s programme after a Covid-hit two years.
Evans added: “It was super surreal coming on with childhood heroes like Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe there. That was very emotional and very special.
“Physically the URC is not so different to the Currie Cup but the speed at which they play the game was quite hard to keep up with it.
“That experience and opportunity I got helped me mature as a rugby player. I’ve been involved in the 23 three times but I only got on once, it was still a great experience on the bench.
“I’m very hungry to get more opportunities and with the Springboks in the Autumn Nations Series, I’m hoping to pounce on those opportunities [with the Stormers].”
Evans admits the Springboks’ concurrent series with Wales’ senior team in South Africa is providing added motivation ahead of Tuesday’s clash at Benetton’s Stadio Comunale di Monigo, especially after his team watched Gareth Anscombe’s last-gasp conversion win Saturday’s second Test 13-12 for the tourists.
He said: “We watched it as a team and it was obviously a very disappointing result for us, but we found it very cool that the seniors are playing Wales at the same time as us, so I think we might use that as fuel.”
The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg