South Africa's Under-20 rugby team emulated the great 1995 RWC World Cup feat of the Springboks when they clinched the IRB Junior World Championship with a deserving 22-16 win over the four-time champions New Zealand at Newlands on Friday evening.
The immense power of the Baby Bok forwards was a telling factor in the match, particularly in the second half when the Baby Blacks tried to raise their game after the SA side had regained the lead midway through the second half.
New Zealand led 10-9 at the break after South Africa closed the first half strongly with a forward drive that produced a touch-down but the TV ref found an infringement.
The Baby Boks raised the roof just moments after the kick-off with a morale-boosting maul which had the Baby Blacks pedalling some 25 metres. Both sets of defences were tested early in the match and the only points after 15 minutes play came via penalties, with flyhalves Handre Pollard (SA) and Ihaia West (NZ) on target (3-3).
There were two fine break-out plays by the Baby Blacks but the SA cover defence came to the rescue. There was also a lucky let-off for SA when West hashed a goalable penalty attempt from close range.
However, the Baby Blacks struck with a try by Milford Keresoma, who rounded off splendidly after a move sprung from a quick line-out near the NZ 10m line. West's conversion gave NZ the lead for the first time in the match (10-6).
There was a fine response from SA as they pressured the NZ defence with a powerful forward surge but they had to settle for a three-point reward via another Pollard penalty, four minutes ahead of the break (10-9).
SA's dominance in the tight was again prominent early in the second half and on one occasion the NZ were pushed off their put-in five metres away from the tryline, much to the delight of the 35 000-strong crowd.
Over the next 14 minutes SA ran NZ ragged in a 13-point surge which proved to be a championship winning effort.
The Baby Blacks managed two more penalties as they watched the title slip from their grasp (22-16).
Scorers: South Africa Under-20: Tries: Vian van der Watt, Jan Serfontein.
Penalties: Handre Pollard (3). Drop goal: Pollard New Zealand Under-20: Tries: Milford Keresoma. Conversion: Ihaia West.
Penalties: West (3). – Sapa