The Junior Springboks will contest the bronze playoff at the World Rugby U20 Championship on Sunday after heart-breaking 32-31 defeat against England in the semi-final at Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l’Amitié in Narbonne dashed their hopes of advancing to the final.
The team staged a spirited fightback from 19-0 down to come within range of winning the match in the dying minutes, but they were denied as England held on with 14 men in the final exchanges.
England took advantage of an early yellow card for Junior Springbok No 8 Muller Uys to score two of their three first-half tries, with Tom Parton touching down in the corner in the 10th minute and Tom Hardwick adding another after receiving the ball at pace and finding his way through the defence.
They added their third try shortly thereafter as Ben White received the ball and made his way to the tryline, and the successful conversion pushed them 19-0 ahead.
The SAU20’s hit back with a try eight minutes before halftime as Sazi Sandi crashed over the chalk following solid pressure on the tryline, and Gianni Lombard’s conversion took their score to seven points.
The Junior Boks continued to create chances on attack, but were unable to capitalise on it, and with halftime approaching England were awarded a penalty and took a shot at the posts to extend their lead to 22-7 going into the break.
Roux’s charges showed their intent early in the second half as Uys and Ruan Nortje scored back-to-back tries within eight minutes thanks to solid pressure.
England, however, fought back with a try by Jordan Olowofela to add to an earlier penalty goal, which saw them stretch their lead to 32-19 with 20 minutes to play.
The Junior Boks continued to show their fighting spirit and it paid off as Manuel Rass scored the team’s fourth try in the 66th minute from sustained pressure on the tryline once again, which allowed them to claw their way to within eight points of England.
The Junior Boks built on this as the match progressed and camped in England’s 22, and with the opposition continuing to infringe, lock James Scott received a yellow card in the 73rd minute, which reduced the team to 14 men for the rest of the match.
The Junior Boks pounced on this and Asenathi Ntlabakanye forced his way over the line, with Lombard’s conversion closing the gap to one point with minutes to play.
That, however, proved to be the last points of the match, as England retained possession and denied the SAU20’s from snatching a victory in the dying minutes.
Junior Springboks 31 (7) England 32 (22)
Junior Springboks – Tries: Sazi Sandi, Muller Uys, Ruan Nortje, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Manuel Rass. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (3).
England – Tries: Tom Parton, Tom Hardwick, Ben White, Jordan Olowofela. Conversions: Marcus Smith (3). Penalty Goals: Marcus Smith (2).