A 78th-minute try gave the Junior Boks a thrilling 32-25 victory over the Baby Blacks in their Junior World Championship semi-final. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
After a stuttering first half performance, South Africa burst into life in the second stanza to set up a meeting with defending champions England in Friday's final.
New Zealand had led 15-10 at the break as the Junior Boks struggled to get a foothold in the match, kicking away what scant possession they did have.
They weren't helped by a leaky defence that missed 16 tackles to New Zealand's one. Captain Handré Pollard kept his side in touching distance with an intercept try and a penalty.
New Zealand extended their lead with another penalty at the start of the second half before South Africa closed the gap to within one point through a Sergael Petersen try.
The try seemed to spurt the Junior Boks into life, and soon they had claimed the lead. It didn't last long, though, as New Zealand hit back with a converted try of their own.
The Junior Boks would level things up after André Esterhuizen, who had been harshly yellow-carded earlier in the match, went over in the corner.
Both teams threw everything they had into the final 10 minutes, but it was the Junior Boks who would claim the match-winning try. They set up the rolling maul a couple metres out from the New Zealand line before rumbling over. Corniel Els was the man who came up with the ball, but it was a true team effort, and one that epitomised the character of this young side.
New Zealand U20 – Tries: Hame Faiva, Tevita Li, Vince Tavae-Aso. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (2). Penalties: McKenzie (2).
South Africa U20 – Tries: Handré Pollard, Sergael Petersen, André Esterhuizen, Corniel Els. Conversions: Pollard (3). Penalty: Pollard (2).
New Zealand U20 – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Vince Tavae-Aso, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown (c), 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Kyle Harris, 5 Geoffrey Cridge, 4 James Tucker, 3 Tau Koloamatangi, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Atunaisa Moli.
Subs: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Scott Mellow, 18 Tim Cadwallader, 19 Mathew Peni, 20 Troy Callander, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Kaveinga Finau, 23 David Havili.
South Africa U20 – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Lloyd Greef, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 JP Smith, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs:16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Victor Sekekete, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images