New Zealand have lost their four-year grip on the Junior World Championship trophy after they were beaten 22-16 by host nation South Africa in the final at Cape Town early today (NZT).
Playing in front of a crowd of more than 35,000 at Newlands Stadium, New Zealand went to the break with a slim 10-9 lead with Auckland wing Milford Keresoma's converted try giving the visitors the edge.
But South Africa scored first in the second half through halfback Vian van der Watt to seize momentum and centre Jan Serfontein's try ensured the hosts held on to bring to an end New Zealand's impressive run of victories.
Captain Bryn Hall said his side were hugely disappointed not to come away with the win but took consolation from their efforts in the electric game.
"I am really proud of the way our boys gave it everything - we didn't give up,'' he said.
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew congratulated the team for their recent run of success.
"Five consecutive finals at the Junior World Championship is a wonderful achievement for New Zealand and we are proud of the boys,'' he said.
"This has been a challenging campaign for them, and facing a strong South African side at home is never easy so we are feeling for (coach) Rob (Penney) and the team.
"We are proud of the record New Zealand holds at this tournament and the boys can hold their heads up for the gutsy performance they put in today.''
South Africa 22 (Vian Van Der Watt, Jen Serfontein tries; Handre Pollard 3 pens, drop goal) bt New Zealand 16 (Milford Keresoma try; Ihaia West 3 pens, con). HT: 10-9.