Baby Boks maul the young Kiwis
South Africa dethroned New Zealand as the IRB Junior World champions at a packed Newlands on Friday.
Outscoring the young Kiwis by two tries to one and using their powerful maul to great effect, the Baby Boks won 22-16 in a tense and entertaining final.
New Zealand had won all four previous versions of this Under-20 global showpiece, but Dawie Theron's Bokkies were full value for their 2012 title – which also saw star centre Jan Serfontein being named Player of the Tournament.
What a great occasion at Newlands. All seats sold, a happy Friday crowd for whom the rain was no dampener, and a match of high intensity and maturity.
There are the Removalists who say things like Newlands is tired and rugby should move to Green Point; there was nothing tired in energetic Newlands on Friday and a game to enthrall from minute one to the end, bright rugby that preferred passing to bashing.
Oh there was miserable patch of kicking in the first half, which ended in New Zealand's lively try, and there was the mastodon rumbling of the South African pack which enjoyed 61 percent of possession, the foundation of the well-deserved victory. Those mauls became things to cheer and encourage enthusiastically, the best weapon the victors had.
There were starting ceremonies to build the excitement – the anthems and then the haka with lolling tongues, popping eyes and slapping hands. New Zealand kicked off but two big mauls had South Africa on the attack.
They kicked an up-and-under and New Zealand's enterprising fullback, Marty McKenzie, counterattacked.
In the match New Zealand were penalised much more than the Baby Boks – 14-7 in the match, 9-3 in the first half. When hooker met hooker and Nathan Harris lay on the ground, refusing to release the ball to Mark Pretorius, Handré Pollard, from 37 metres out and at a sharp angle, goaled. 3-0 after 10 minutes. It was Pollard's best kick of the evening.
South Africa was careless at the kick-off and Jason Emery came scurrying away with the ball till a desperate tackle at the corner saved the day – but only for a while as it was New Zealand's line-out, South Africa were penalised and flyhalf Ihaia West levelled the scores.
South Africa attacked and captain Wian Liebenberg was over but Nick Ross brilliantly held him up. But the Baby Blacks were off-side and Pollard had a simple kick to make the score 6-3 after 18 minutes.
Now came a silly period of kicking, one to the other. The Baby Blacks did it much better than the Baby Boks. Eventually, Vian van der Watt kicked out, New Zealand took a quick throw and suddenly the Baby Blacks were attacking at speed and Milford Keresoma was over in the left corner. West converted. 10-6 to New Zealand after 35 minutes.
Tshotsho Mbovane charged down a clearing kick, the South African forwards went on pick-'n-drive and Harris was again penalised at a tackle. 10-9 just before half-time.
New Zealand started the second half with a five-metre scrum after Mbovane had knocked the ball back into his own ingoal, but with a mighty effort the South African pack destroyed the New Zealanders and won a relieving penalty.
After a line-out, tall Pieter Steph du Toit went on a long run downfield. Pollard changed direction to the left, Vian van der Watt nudged the ball into the in-goal and the scrumhalf beat Bryn Hall to the touchdown.- 14-10 after 48 minutes.
New Zealand brought Tuki Raimona to tighthead, doubtless to shore up their rickety scrum. It's tough when the opposition are hurting your scrums and marching ahead from mauls.
New Zealand won a turnover off Jan Serfontein near the half-way line and went left, again with McKenzie demanding close attention. McKenzie got a pass and seemed certain to score at the posts when Ruan Botha felled him from behind. Dillyn Leyds won a turnover but New Zealand had a penalty and West made it 14-13 after 56 minutes.
There was a sad interlude after this. Paul Willemse pulled Ofa Tu'ungafasi's wild and woolly hair. The New Zealand prop punched Willemse. The referee gave both a red card. It was a silly moment but you will see worse actions that earn just a penalty, not even a yellow card. These were two red cards and a penalty to New Zealand for provocation. It was not a problematic match.
After a maul and with the referee playing advantage Pollard kicked a long and soaring drop-goal. 17-13 after 59 minutes.
On the left Mbovane did some dancing feet and South Africa went left with a brilliant pass to Wian Liebenberg on his right. The flank forged ahead and got a clever pass to Fabian Booysen who was near touch. The No.8 played inside to Jan Serfontein who beat two defenders and got beyond two more to score a forceful try. 22-13 with 17 minutes to play.
Play flew on and with four minutes to go Botha was penalised at a tackle and West lobbed the easy kick over 22-16 with four tense minutes to play.
In those four minutes New Zealand did not look like getting near to scoring and eventually Mbovane picked up the ball and gleefully kicked it out, setting off a wild party of hugging. There was a break for prayers but then it was back to hugging, getting medals, holding the trophy aloft and wandering about to greet the happy crowd.
Man of the Match: New Zealand had Marty McKenzie, Jordan Taufua and Ihaia West; South Africa had Mark Pretorius, Handré Pollard, Maks van Dyk, skipper Wian Liebenberg, Pieter Steph du Toit and the player voted Player of the Tournament, the Danie Gerber lookalike, Jan Serfontein.
For South Africa:
Tries: Van der Watt, Serfontein
Pens: Pollard 3
For New Zealand:
Pens: West 3
Red cards: Paul Willemse (South Africa, 58 – foul play, pulling hair), Ofa Tuungafasi (New Zealand, 58 – foul play, punching)
South Africa: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Kobus van Wyk, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Tshotsho Mbovane, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Vian van der Watt, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Pieter Steph du Toit, 6 Wian Liebenberg, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Oliver Kebble, 19 Braam Steyn, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Abrie Griesel, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Travis Ismaiel.
New Zealand: 15 Marty McKenzie, 14 Pita Ahki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ope Peleseuma, 11 Milford Keresoma, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall (captain), 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Hugh Blake, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Nick Ross, 4 Joe Latta, 3 Fraser Armstrong, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Tuki Raimona, 18 Eric Sione, 19 Taniela Manu, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Scott Eade, 22 Ambrose Curtis, 23 Marnus Hanley.
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)