June 15, 2024

Gericke Looks Back at U20 Series Win

Those goals have been part of the plan for a while. The potential U20 players have been in contact with the coaching staff through the Winter Camp and through the winter and spring.

“Not all the players were able to make the Winter Camp but we knew we’d see them somewhere,” said Head Coach Neethling Gericke. “We would get them together and talk about what our purpose is and what we’re trying to achieve; what their mentality is going to be, and how we want to play. We wanted to cover all that before we got together. We sort of knew what the puzzle looked like, so then it was a case of how we could fit the pieces together.”

The plan for Canada was to shift around the lineup regardless of how the first game went, and indeed even after winning the opening game Gericke made changes. There was a reason for that.

“If you’re going to go to the World Trophy, you play every five days—four games in 20 days; you cannot win the Trophy with just 23 players,” Gericke told GRR. “You need all 28. We had 32 players in Canada and we had to test our squad depth. I am very happy with the choices we made and really there is not a lot of difference between the guys who started the first game and the guys who started the second game. We will have 28 strong players in Scotland.”

That first game, of course, had the Canadians up 18-7 into the second half. However the USA team overcame that to score 26 unanswered points, and follow that up with a 41-21 victory in the second game to win the series 74-39.

“We talked about some of the things that happened, and we had told the players, if you’re going to focus on things like how the referee is interpreting the game, then you’re going to miss what’s important,” said Gericke. “At halftime we just said, things are not going our way, so let’s go back to what we do well. We laid out the type of game we wanted to play and we got some really good production from our bench, which lifted us up. They’re a good group of guys. They got connected pretty quickly, and the time we spent in Chuckanut was really important for us, not only in working together but in acclimating to the weather, because it rained in Chuckanut and it rained in the first game.

“The people at Chuckanut Bay were very helpful, the fields were beautiful, and they helped us prepare. I have nothing bad to say about that experience and preparation.”

Going forward, clearly the work-on is the scrum. By Gericke’s count the USA U20s gave up 15 scrum penalties over the two games against Canada. When they kept the ball and when they played in the right areas if the field, they were very good. They defended well. But penalties, especially at scrum time, hurt.

But a good assembly with some of the players in Charlotte and then the seven or so sessions with the entire team building into the opening games in Scotland will give them an opportunity to improve that area of the game. It’s a pretty obvious fix. With other aspects of play working nicely, a USA U20 team that scrums a little better—at the very least avoiding penalties—can make an impact.

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