17 June 2014
South Africa will face England for the IRB Junior World Championship title at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday after a tough 32-25 win over the hosts, New Zealand, in the semi-finals on Sunday. The English thrashed Ireland 42-15 in their semi-final.
The Junior Springboks’ victory was their second over New Zealand in the tournament, and, as had been the case in their first clash, they had to come from behind to defeat the Baby Blacks.
Dawie Theron’s charges had dominated the first showdown up front and it became clear from the start that the Kiwis were intent on moving the big South African pack around the field to avoid a forward-dominated battle. It worked for a while.
New Zealand went ahead early with a try to hooker Hame Faiva, although there was more than a hint of a forward pass when he received the ball. South African skipper Handre Pollard, however, brought his team back into the contest by intercepting a pass and racing through to score next to the uprights.
After a controversial yellow card was handed to Baby Bok centre Andre Esterhuizen, the New Zealanders extended their lead and went into the break 15-10 ahead.
South Africa’s forwards, though, began to take charge in the second half and with that control came three more tries as the Junior Springboks ran in four tries to three to clinch the win and a place in the final.
With the scores level at 25-25, the victory was clinched just two minutes from time when hooker Corniel Els was driven over the Kiwis’ tryline from a lineout. Pollard, who became the all-time leading points’ scorer in the Junior World Cup history, added an excellent conversion from wide on the left to put the seal on a hard-fought win.
‘Like a proper test match’
“It was like a proper test match out there,” South Africa’s coach Dawie Theron said after the game. “It was full of tension, drama and excitement and I’m immensely proud of the boys.
“We kept our composure and I knew we were always in the game despite going behind at halftime and twice again in the second half.
He added: “Credit must go the players. They showed huge fighting spirit and great composure to close out the game like that. Their composure can be attributed to what we do in training. During our sessions we keep the intensity high and always put them under pressure, because that is what you have to do to win games such as these.
‘Handre Pollard was outstanding’
Theron also praised Pollard, saying: “Handre Pollard was outstanding with his leadership and he led by example with his play. His intercept try in the first half was no fluke. That was the result of pressure.”
IRB Junior Player of the Year
The South Africa skipper, who first played in the IRB Junior World Championships as a schoolboy, was on Tuesday named as one of the four finalists for the IRB Junior Player of the Year, along with England’s Nathan Earle, Ireland’s Garry Ringrose and Tevita Li of New Zealand.
The public may vote on the shortlist on IRB Junior World Championships on Facebook. The results of the public poll will be considered, along with the original votes, when finalising the winner.
“We started too slow, but that was due to the pressure from them,” Pollard said of his team’s victory over New Zealand.
“We clawed our way back after they made all the play for most of the first half, and at five points behind at halftime I knew we could do it if we could manage to do a bit more with the ball.”