The Junior Springboks smashed the Baby Blacks into submission, claiming a 33-24 victory in Albany to move top of Pool C. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
It was a typically South African performance, built on the back of a dominant forward pack and a tactically superior game plan.
Handré Pollard was immense, as his experience at a higher level than most of his counterparts was plain for all to see. He was allowed the opportunity to stamp his mark on the match thanks to a mammoth effort by the forwards, who pummeled New Zealand in the scrum and turned their lineouts into a shambles.
The Junior Boks moved into an early six-point lead courtesy of two Pollard penalties. Dawie Theron's team were looking comfortable at that stage, but a needless turnover in their own 22 saw the Baby Blacks swing it wide for Tevita Li to go over in the corner. A few minutes later, it was that man again. Receiving the ball on the left, he surged up the touchline past four South African defenders before beating Warrick Gelant on the inside to go over for a superb solo try. It must be said that he was helped by some lacklustre defence by the Junior Boks.
The Boks were dealt a blow after they lost flanker Jean-Luc du Preez through a concussion he received in the build-up to the try.
Pollard closed the gap with another three-pointer before the Boks levelled things up with a try of their own. In a move that started on their own 10m line, they capitalised on an overthrow at the New Zealand lineout. The ball was worked to Sergeal Petersen on the left wing, before he offloaded inside for Jesse Kriel to grab his third try in two matches.
Simon Hickey claimed a penalty in the closing minutes of the first half, as the Baby Blacks went in 17-14 to the good.
The Junior Boks would run in three tries in the second stanza to secure a bonus point, and put the Baby Blacks at risk of an early exit.
Pollard grabbed his try after a tighthead at scrum time deep in the New Zealand half. Right wing Lloyd Greeff then claimed the Boks' third as the errors started to come from the hosts.
Pollard kept New Zealand pinned in their own half, and the Boks were duly rewarded with another try through Warrick Gelant after James Tucker was sent to the sin bin.
Tevita Li, one of the few shining lights for the Baby Blacks, claimed his hat-trick late on, but it was nothing more than a consolation.
South Africa will next face Samoa on Tuesday, while New Zealand will need nothing short of a bonus-point victory against the Scots if they wish to keep their title chances alive.
South Africa U20 – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard, Lloyd Greeff, Warrick Gelant. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3).
New Zealand U20 – Tries: Tevita Li (3). Conversions: Simon Hickey (3). Penalties: Hickey.
South Africa U20 – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Lloyd Greeff, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 JP Smith, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 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 Duhan van der Merwe.
New Zealand U20 – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Vincent Tavae-Aso, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Mathew Peni, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Geoffery Cridge, 4 James Tucker, 3 Tau Koloamatangi, 2 Epalahame Faiva, 1 Atunaisa Moli.
Subs: 16 James O'Reilly, 17 Scott Mellow, 18 Timothy Cadwallader, 19 Kyle Harris, 20 Joshua Dickson, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Richard Mo'unga, 23 Tauasosi Tuimavave.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images