Cape Town - The Junior Springboks produced a
superb comeback from trailing 21-0 after 30 minutes to beat New Zealand 41-34
(half-time 21-26) and claim a third place finish at the IRB Junior World
Championships in Vannes, France, on Sunday.
The Baby Boks scored three tries
in the space of seven minutes in the first half to throw the game back into the
melting pot and then took control in the final half hour to close out a
memorable victory of character and skill.
New Zealand had raced into a
21-0 lead in as many minutes through tries by left wing Lolagi Visinia (2) and
No 8 Joe Edwards.
South Africa looked down and out
but fought back remarkably, although they had to wait until the 31st minute for
their first score. Right wing Luther Obi stepped between two defenders from ten
metres out after good forward drives to restore South African hopes.
The forwards then repeated the dose
from a five-metre penalty with tighthead Luan de Bruin profiting this time
before Seabelo Senatla intercepted in the New Zealand backline to level the
scores (21-21) and complete the three-try burst.
New Zealand fullback Joe Webber
scored in the corner with the final move of the first half and a Simon Hickey
penalty re-opened the lead to eight points (29-21) six minutes into the second
half to once again put the Baby Boks under pressure.
But they responded superbly.
They warmed to their task and,
following the sin-binning of flank Jordan Manihera for the killing the ball at
the latest of a succession of South African attacks, they began to take an
Captain Ruan Steenkamp and
replacement flank Kwagga Smith scored tries in the 53rd and 56th
minutes to put South Africa into the lead for the first time. Handré Pollard
added a penalty to give the Junior Boks a 36-29 lead.
New Zealand added to their own
problems when they were reduced to 13 men when replacement prop Kalafi Pongi
was sin-binned for taking out a man in the air.
However, they were back to 14
when impressive South African scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer collected a pass from
Steenkamp at the base of a five-metre scrum to cross in the corner for the
decisive score in the 71st minute.
Pollard was unable to convert
but South Africa led by 12 points (41-29) and, although Manihera scored a try
with three minutes remaining, the South Africans maturely controlled the game
to the final whistle.
England won the tournament when they beat Wales 23-15 in the final later in the day.
Tries: Luther Obi, Luan de
Bruin, Seabelo Senatla, Ruan Steenkamp, Kwagga Smith, Stefan Ungerer.
Conversions: Handré Pollard (4).
Tries: Lolagi Visinia (2), Joe Edwards, Joe Webber, Jordan
Conversions: Simon Hickey (3).
Junior Springbok team:
15. Cheslin Kolbe (Western Province), 14. Luther Obi (Leopards), 13. Jesse Kriel (Blue Bulls), 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Blue Bulls), 11. Seabelo Senatla (SARU contracted), 10. Handré Pollard (Blue Bulls), 9. Stefan Ungerer (Sharks), 8. Aidon Davis (EP Kings), 7. Jacques du Plessis (Blue Bulls), 6. Ruan Steenkamp (Blue Bulls, captain), 5. Dennis Visser (Blue Bulls), 4. Irné Herbst (Blue Bulls), 3. Luan de Bruin (Free State Cheetahs), 2. Michael Willemse (Western Province), 1. Sti Sithole (Western Province)
Substitutes: 16. Jacques du Toit (Free State Cheetahs), 17. Andrew Beerwinkel (Blue Bulls), 18. Jannie Stander (Golden Lions), 19. Kwagga Smith (Golden Lions), 20. Percy Williams (Golden Lions), 21. Robert du Preez (Sharks), 22. Dries Swanepoel (Blue Bulls), 23. Marné Coetzee (Sharks)