The Junior Springboks finished top of pool C at the IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand on Tuesday, beating a spirited Samoa 21-8 in Pukekohe. Samoa had a 8-7 lead at the break.
The South Africans scored three tries, two of them in the second half, as they battled poor playing conditions and a very committed Samoan team to finish as the top qualifier at the tournament.
It was a frustrating evening for the Junior Boks, who lacked the sharpness and edge that highlighted their play against New Zealand on Friday.
They could not execute on a number of occasions, but finished strongly.
The South Africans were held over the line on three occasions, lost the ball over the line twice and had two penalties to the poles drifted wide.
Junior Springboks captain Handrè Pollard admitted to a rather disjointed display after the match.
“We made a lot of errors, but we wanted to get into the semifinals and we are. That is very pleasing. There was great commitment from Samoa and we were a bit flat,” he said.
“At least we played better second half. We are a team that play 80 minutes and kept on knocking.”
It took almost half an hour for the first score and it was Samoa who got the scoreboard rolling.
Samoan flyhalf Talaitane Mu did miss a penalty after 30 minutes, but the Samoans scored from a charged-down kick shortly afterwards, with inside centre Nathaniel Apa dotting down.
The conversion was missed. The Junior Boks got onto the scoreboard and the lead with a try by Aidon Davis, following a number of strong scrums by his team and a yellow card for repeated infringements to Samoa. Pollard converted to put the Junior Boks ahead. Mu did kick another penalty on the halftime whistle to give the Samoans an unexpected lead.
A missed penalty by Pollard in the 54th minute was quickly redeemed by Andre Esterhuizen, who crashed over next to the poles after receiving an inside pass from his captain.
The conversion was good and with Samoa pressing hard to get past the 14-8 deficit, Sergeal Petersen scooped on a loose pass and scored to confirm the result in the 79th minute.
South Africa 21 (7). Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Aidon Davis, Sergeal Petersen. Conversions: Handrè Pollard (3).
Samoa 8 (8). Try: Nathaniel Apa. Penalty: Talaitane Mu.