Rugby: NZ take positives from loss before Irish game

By Campbell Burnes

New Zealand competed hard with South Africa but succumbed late in the game.
New Zealand competed hard with South Africa but succumbed late in the game.

New Zealand have another three days to park the disappointment of missing the Junior World Championship final and refocus on beating Ireland to clinch third place in their home tournament.

New Zealand were unlucky to lose to South Africa in an enthralling semifinal on Sunday night, leading for most of the clash until late errors and South African pressure put paid to their hopes.

Chris Boyd's troops played some smart, accurate and enterprising rugby but failed to convert all their many first-half opportunities to points, while South Africa stayed true to their structures and wore down New Zealand in the clutch.

"I'm extremely proud of the way the boys played. We collectively hatched a bit of a plan that 90 per cent of the time we stuck to. You couldn't fault our endeavour," said Boyd.

"We played significantly more football than them but gifted them a seven-pointer [the intercept try to Handre Pollard from a loose Vince Aso pass]."

The lineout was vastly better than it was nine days earlier, with a 100 per cent success rate off their own ball and then a South African throw went awry in the second spell which led to Aso's try in the corner.

"I thought their legs were gone after 20 minutes and we just couldn't force that killer blow," added Boyd. But the South Africa legs were not gone and once they realised that high kicks could bear fruit, it then became a game of patience and sheer grind.

Fullback Damian McKenzie was tremendous under the high ball, bar one mistimed leap which led to centre and captain Anton Lienert-Brown tapping the ball back for another opportunist South African try. McKenzie had his ankle strapped after rolling it on the way down from one of these aerial bombardments, but was sure he'd be right for the clash with Ireland.

"We're all disappointed but before the game we talked about leaving everything out there on the field. I think we did that for the full 80. We knew South Africa would come out hot in the second half so credit to them," said McKenzie.

Asked if there were any injuries out of the semifinal Boyd replied:

"Just ego and pride, but not too much physical injury."

- NZ Herald

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