South Africa 33
New Zealand 23
New Zealand were overwhelmed by a South African set-piece clinic to heap pressure on themselves at the World Junior Championships.
A vocal crowd of around 7000 at QBE Stadium in Albany watched stunned as New Zealand imploded last night to lose 33-24, despite a Tevita Li hat-trick, against a larger and more accurate pack which took control of the game. As the rain came down, it seemed a metaphor for the home side.
New Zealand found it very difficult to legally combat the Junior Boks' lineout drives, and Handre Pollard was happy to get his goalkicking radar working early. Lock JD Schickerling had a whale of a game in the middle of the South African lineout, and he was not on his own.
Yet the first try went to New Zealand, in opportunistic fashion after a South African turnover in their own quarter. Damian McKenzie gave the last pass to Li who scooted in for his second try of the tournament.
South Africa's scrum was also looking sound, though their first two tightheads came from the ball being kicked through as opposed to being hooked.
Li could not stay out of the action. His second try of the night was from 55m and he beat five tacklers along the way, before shifting his angle to the 45 degrees to score between the posts. One of the casualties of his run was South African flanker Jean Luc du Preez, who was knocked out and carted off.
South Africa did score a fine try of their own from a lineout, with centre Jesse Kriel on the end of a good passing movement featuring his twin Dan and left wing Sergeal Petersen.
New Zealand led 17-14 at halftime and short lineouts should have been on the agenda for the second half. If they were, the team ignored the instructions and it all went downhill at a rapid rate for New Zealand.
McKenzie was outstanding in the air as South Africa rained bombs on him. But the home side's set-piece woes came into stark relief when a third tighthead yielded a try to Pollard after strong gap running by Jesse Kriel.
Wing Lloyd Greef then dived over to seal New Zealand's fate after more quick hands and fullback Warrick Gelant added the bonus point. But how would New Zealand create any phases off which to attack? The answer was: they could not.
Li could not get enough ball, though he scored a consolation try for his hat-trick in the 79th minute. First five-eighths Simon Hickey resorted to taking the ball into the teeth of the South African defence but that was never going to work as they tackled like demons.
New Zealand were forced to play most of the second spell deep in their own half and they never looked likely to break out as they were picked off by a strong rushing defence.
South Africa 33 (Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Lloyd Greef, Warrick Gelant tries; Pollard 2 cons, 3 pens)
New Zealand 24 (Tevita Li 3 tries; Simon Hickey 3 cons, pen) HT: 14-17