Despite the scoreline, the Junior Springboks were valiant in their 31-12 loss against a superior Junior Irish outfit in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship semifinals on Sunday evening.
Ireland entered the Under-20 Championship off the back of an under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam win and proved their class against a courageous Junior Boks side, who were outclassed on a chilly evening at Athlone Stadium.
South Africa will now play England in the third/fourth place playoff on Friday evening at Athlone Stadium, with France and Ireland contesting the final after France beat England 52-31 in the other semifinal on Sunday.
Ireland absorbed relentless early pressure from the Junior Springboks and countered with a brace by leftwing James Nicholson and accurate goalkicking by flyhalf Sam Prendergast, who kept the scoreboard ticking over.
South Africa started the match in promising fashion, peppering the Irish line sporadically in the opening half hour, but final passes not sticking and knock-ons close to the line cost the home side.
The Junior Boks somehow finished the half pointless and seven points down despite spending most of the opening 40 minutes in Irish territory.
Poor discipline by the Baby Boks allowed Ireland to take the lead. Replacement loose-forward Jannes Potgieter conceded South Africa’s third yellow card of the tournament when he collided with Ireland wing Andrew Osborne after he had kicked the ball.
Prendergast kicked the halfway line penalty deep into touch in South African territory. Ireland shifted the ball wide to leftwing Nicholson, who finished neatly in the left corner in the 38th minute to finally break the 0-0 deadlock.
Prendergast, with his kicking boots on in windy conditions, slotted the conversion from the corner.
South Africa worked their way back into Irish territory as the halftime siren went, when flyhalf Jean Smith missed a drop goal in front of the posts to go into the break trailing by a converted try, despite a dominant opening half.
South Africa started the second half in a similarly positive style, but Smith missed two relatively straightforward penalties in the first five minutes, failing to get the Boks back in the game.
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…. to be continued
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