Junior Boks power to World Champs semis
Smart thinking by skipper Buthelezi sends Kiwis out of tournament
The Junior Springboks will play defending Under-20 world champions France in the semifinals of the World Championships after beating New Zealand 25-17 in Rosario in Wednesday).
The final Pool C result also eliminated the Kiwis with hosts Argentina set to meet Australia in the other semifinal.
The Junior Boks provided their best performance of the tournament so far by dominating NZ for most of a high-quality contest. That was in spite of sustaining three yellow cards in the match.
Fullback Vaughen Isaacs scored in the eighth minute from close range and lock JJ van der Mescht’s marauding touchline run in the 19th minute added SA’s second try in a first half in which NZ were on the back foot.
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Flank Dylan Richardson and fellow back-rower Sibusiso Sangweni were yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on and illegal tackle in the 21st and 34th minutes. NZ did not make the advantage count with a lone Fergus Burke penalty to show for it.
The Junior Boks won the battle with their magnificent physicality on both attack and defence. Their line speed upset the Kiwis and in contact SA’s ball carriers made valuable metres.
The set pieces were also rock solid and the SA scrum gradually ground the NZ eight to pulp. It was a beautiful sight as the NZ scrum buckled like a shopping trolley in a head-on collision with a bakkie.
But a third yellow card for SA flyhalf James Mollentze for an early tackle‚ which led to a NZ penalty try early in the second half‚ swung momentum the way of the Kiwis.
Despite playing 30 minutes of the match with 14 men‚ SA’s ability to win the contact meant NZ never had a strong foothold in the game and never narrowed the gap to less that five points.
Late on‚ when SA were awarded a penalty‚ captain Phendulani Buthelezi showed enough nous to realise that stretching the lead to eight points would eliminate NZ from the semifinals.
Argentina’s earlier 47-26 win over France meant that both teams had 11 log points. Going into the game SA and NZ had 10 log points. With SA heading for victory‚ NZ needed a losing bonus point to progress. Sanele Nohamba’s clinical strike a minute from time ended the NZ challenge.
“I am very pleased‚” coach Chean Roux said. “It was a great effort by the players. They executed the game plan excellently. We will enjoy it tonight‚ but there are still two games left‚ so we need to keep our feet on the ground and prepare for the next game.
“We worked hard on our scrums‚ lineouts and mauls‚ and that was excellent. But the outstanding part of our game was our defence. The players showed a lot of character and all credit to them for that.”
The SA Under-20 coach said the French would provide “tough opposition” in ther semifinal.
“We played against France last year and year before‚ so we will have a look at the games and sit down tomorrow and work out a plan‚” said Roux.
“At this stage‚ however‚ the important thing is to get the players ready and to ensure that we use every rest day as effectively as possible.”