6 June 2014
The Junior Springboks laid down a marker at the IRB Junior World Championships on Friday when they outplayed New Zealand in North Harbour to record a 33-24 victory which was more convincing than the final score suggests.
Dawie Theron’s charges conceded two early tries to fall 6-14 behind, but in the end they claimed a bonus point for scoring four tries.
They trailed 14-17 at the break, but in the second half the South African forward pack took charge of the contest, dominating the breakdowns and making the lineout a lottery for the New Zealanders on their own throw-in.
‘Our forwards did a great job’
“I think our forwards did a great job today,” Baby Bok skipper Handre Pollard said in a post-match interview on the field.
“They got stuck in and created go-forward ball. Then, when the rain started coming down, we played the kicking game, and it worked out quite well for us.”
Commenting on the way the Junior Springbok pack subdued the New Zealanders in the second half, he added: “As South Africans we usually [like to] play it up front. Our maul did particularly well tonight. I think it was quite a game up front. Congrats to our forwards, who played a great game, and our backs’ finishing was pretty good.”
Pollard pulled the strings at flyhalf with aplomb and played a crucial role in South Africa’s first try, scored in the left hand corner by Jesse Kriel.
Pollard, Lloyd Greeff and Warrick Gelant, backline players all, added further tries, using a formula that had served South Africa well against Scotland and worked well against the tournament hosts too.
It began with taking the ball hard at the opposition with the forwards, then moving it from side to side before swiftly getting it out wide to where space had been created.
Hat-trick of tries
Spare a thought for New Zealand left wing Tevita Li, who excelled in a losing cause, scoring a hat-trick of tries, but South Africa clearly had the edge as the Baby Boks’ showed the longer the contest progressed.
“It is a great New Zealand side, with lots of talent everywhere. I think we did well,” Pollard said. “We worked hard on our defence. We knew it was going to be a hard battle and they were going to take us wide, but I think we did well.”
‘That killed us’
New Zealand captain Simon Hickey agreed that the South African forwards set the platform for the men in green and gold to win: “I thought we started the game quite well,” he said. “We played the way we wanted to. We made the most of our opportunities in the first half, but we struggled off our ball in the second half, and we struggled to exit our half. That killed us.”
South Africa next face Samoa in their last Pool B game. The islanders, who went down 12-48 to New Zealand in their first match, defeated Scotland 27-18 in Pukekohe on Friday.
‘It will be a hard game against Samoa’
“It will be a hard game against Samoa,” said Pollard. We saw the other night, they played a hard game of rugby, so hopefully we can pull a win through and go to the semi-finals.”
France, after a 19-13 win over Ireland and a 37-5 defeat of Fiji, appear on course for a place in the semi-finals. Defending champions England, after thrashing Italy 63- 3 and beating Australia 38-24, look likely to join them.
The last of the semi-final places will go to the best of the second place finishers from the three pools.