South Africa surged to the top of the IRB Junior World Championship (JWC) Pool C following a 33-24 beating of New Zealand in Auckland on Friday. The Junior Springboks outscored the Baby Blacks by four tries to three at the QBE Stadium.
After a cagey opening six minutes, Handre Pollard slotted a penalty to hand the South Africans the early lead. The advantage was doubled by another Pollard penalty on 11 minutes. However the lead changed hands two hands later when Tevita Li scored the first try of the evening for the host nation. Simon Hickey converted to make it 7-6.
The Kiwis extended their lead ten minutes later when Hickey converted a second Li try to make it 14-6. Pollard would kick another three-pointer to bring Dawie Theron’s side back into the match before a Jesse Kriel try in the near corner levelled matters. Pollard missed the conversion but Hickey would find time for a penalty kick before the break to hand the New Zealanders a 17-14 half-time advantage.
In the second half the pendulum swung the way of the Junior Boks. Pollard would go over for his first try of the evening and South Africa’s second six minutes in. The Vodacom Bulls flyhalf converted and it was 21-17 to the South Africans. Instead of a fightback from New Zealand, it was South Africa who found themselves threatening to score next.
A good offensive period was duly rewarded when Lloyd Greeff crashed over to put the 2012 champions out of sight at 26-17. With nine minutes still to play the bonus point try arrived courtesy of full black Warrick Gelant to complete an emphatic victory for the Junior Springboks and a miserable night for the hosts who experienced a torrid second half.
In what was nothing more than a consolation Richie Mo’unga would out sprint the Junior Springbok defence to secure a late try but it was too little, too late as the Kiwis left the field without a bonus point. In a tough format, it means that there is a very real possibility the hosts could be eliminated before the semi-final stage. Having already beaten Scotland and almost certain to see off Samoa next, Theron will now expect to top the pool and earn a semi-final berth.