SA U20 beat Samoa 21-8 in Pukekohe on Tuesday and will play New Zealand in the Junior World Championship semi-finals, reports JON CARDINELLI.
The talk in the build-up was of how much damage South Africa would inflict on Samoa. The actual encounter was closely contested, as the Samoans displayed terrific intensity while the South Africans struggled in the wet conditions.
It took all of 64 minutes before the Junior Boks assumed control. The forwards set the platform, and the powerful No 12 André Esterhuizen bashed through several defenders to score. At 14-8, South Africa were finally on course for victory.
But that particular exhibition of power and skill was the exception rather than the norm. The Junior Boks were rattled by Samoa in the first half. The Pacific Islanders were especially aggressive on defence, while the South Africans' handling let them down.
Samoa went to the half-time break leading 8-7, despite losing No 8 Richard Mariota to a yellow card in the 34th minute. Nathaniel Apa was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle in the 47th minute, and yet somehow Samoa managed to avoid conceding a point during that period of sanction.
South Africa certainly had their chances to put Samoa away. No 8 Aidon Davis, who had scored via a pushover try in the first half, may have scored in similar fashion in the second stanza had he not knocked the ball on. Handré Pollard also missed a penalty attempt when Samoa still held a slender 8-7 lead.
Esterhuizen's try and Pollard's subsequent conversion propelled the Junior Boks into the lead. With Samoan goal-kicker William Talataina Mu having a poor night, it meant the islanders would need to score a converted try to snatch an unlikely win.
Ultimately the Junior Boks' defence would hold out. Samoa grew desperate, and an attempt to counter-attack from deep in the dying minutes backfired. South African winger Sergeal Petersen then scored against the run of play to clinch the result.
The Junior Boks will meet the Baby Blacks, who they beat 33-24 in the pool stage, in the semi-finals on Sunday (9:35am SA time), after the hosts smashed Scotland 54-7. England will play Ireland in the other semi.
South Africa U20 – Tries: Aidon Davis, André Esterhuizen, Sergeal Petersen. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3).
Samoa U20 – Try: Nathaniel Apa. Penalty: William Talataina Mu.
South Africa U20 – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 JP Smith, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Thabo Mabuza, 5 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Samoa U20 – 15 Luteru Laulala, 14 Harry Luteru, 13 Joseph Ikenasio, 12 Nathaniel Apa, 11 Nu'u Nu'u, 10 William Talataina Mu, 9 Mark Talaese, 8 Richard Mariota, 7 Henry Stowers (c), 6 Sootala Fa'aso'o, 5 Cameron Skelton, 4 Jotham Wrampling, 3 Etimani Sului, 2 Leif Schwenke, 1 Fereti Saaga.
Subs: 16 Ieremia Mataena, 17 Louis Kapeteni, 18 Andrew Lemalu, 19 Joe Lee, 20 Ezra Meleisea, 21 Emil Pittman, 22 Johan Fagasua, 23 Aukuso Tuitama.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images