Junior Boks edge Samoa to clinch semi-final spot against NZ
The Junior Springboks defeated a spirited Samoa 21-8 at a rain swept ECOLight Stadium on Tuesday in Pukekohe to book a semi-final slot against hosts New Zealand Under-20 after they finished unbeaten and top of Pool C at the IRB Junior World Championship.
The South Africans will meet their traditional rivals for the second time in three matches at the JWC when the semi-finals will be played on 15 June at the QBE Stadium in Albany.
The New Zealanders outplayed Scotland 54-7 to take the fourth and last semi-final spot after finishing as the best placed second team.
England scrapped through 17-16 against Argentina while Wales defeated France 13-3, a result which eliminated both teams from a semi-final spot, and ironically opened the door to NZ to snap up the last semifinal place.
South Africa had plenty of possession and created several chances but handling errors and also ferocious defence by Samoa prevented the Junior Boks from a more convincing win.
Dawie Theron, the Junior Springboks coach, said afterwards it was not their most convincing performance: “We must give Samoa credit for making it a huge contest. They battled all the way and made it difficult for us to build momentum.”
He added: “We spoilt three clear cut chances to score, but we would have learnt a lot from this win in very difficult conditions. If you look at the close score between England and Argentina then you can see that the weather definitely played a huge role in the performances of the teams today.”
On the prospect of playing NZ twice in two weeks, team captain Handré Pollard said: “If you want to win the tournament then you must play and be able to win against any team. Our first match against them is history and we will now have to prepare very thoroughly for the semi-finals. We weren’t at our best tonight and the boys know that and we will have to lift our performance for the semis,” said Pollard.
The Junior Springboks had to come from behind to defeat Samoa, who led 8-7 at halftime thanks to a try by centre Nathaniel Apa and a penalty by flyhalf William Talataina Mu. Number eight Aidon Davis scored for the Junior Boks after several missed opportunities.
South Africa were again strong in the set pieces and particularly in the scrums, where they pushed the physical Samoans often several meters towards their try line. Centre Andre Esterhuizen en wing Sergeal Petersen each scored a try in the second half to secure a hard craft win for the 2012 JWC winners.
Interestingly, this is was the first time the Junior Springboks and Samoa have met since the inaugural JWC tournament in 2008 when South Africa won a bruising encounter 16-11.
Ireland beat Fiji 38-0 to qualify for the semi-finals. Australia defeated Italy 29-3, Wales edged France 13-3 while England beat Argentina 17-16.
Semi-final draw for 15 June:
England vs Ireland
Junior Boks vs NZ Under-20
Junior Springboks: Tries: Aidon Davis, Andre Esterhuizen, Sergeal Petersen; Conversions: Handré Pollard (3).
Samoa: Tries: Nathaniel Apa; Penalty: William Talataina Mu