Cape Town – The Junior Springboks on Monday evening lost 28-20 to defending champions England in their World Rugby Under-20 Championship semi-final in Calvisano and will now contest the bronze final on Saturday against France, who earlier lost against New Zealand in the other semi-final.
South Africa left themselves with too much to do after two of their players were yellow carded for high tackles in the opening 30 minutes, handing England the advantage upfront.
The Junior Bok rallied with two tries in the closing minutes, but it was unfortunately too late.
The first few minutes were characterised by both teams seeking to gain the advantage by testing each with long kicks up field. South Africa were penalised for a ruck offence and England flyhalf Rory Jennings kicked the first points of the match to put England 3-0 ahead after four minutes.
Two minutes later England were caught offside and Brandon Thomson slotted the 45 m kick to level the scores at 3-3.
Joseph Dweba was then penalised for a high tackle offering Jennings his second successful attempt at kick to regain the lead at 6-3. Hanro Liebenberg, the SA captain and No 8, then received a yellow card for another high tackle. Jennings hit the upright with his third penalty kicking attempt as England tried to pile on the pressure.
Warrick Gelant tested the English defence with a surging run and moments later the South Africans, showed great strength and courage to push England off their own scrum to gain a penalty, which Thomson sent wide.
England were caught off guard with a scrum on their try line and conceded a penalty for an early hit. Thomson hit the target from close range and the team enjoyed the water break at the 20 minute mark level on 6-points each.
In the 22nd minute lock Jason Jenkins was yellow carded for another high tackle and sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes, two minutes after captain Liebenberg had returned to the field.
With a lock off missing, England scored a pushover scrum try when James Chisholm controlled the ball at the back off the scrum to dot down to put England 11-6 in front after 26 minutes.
SA replaced hooker Joseph Dweba in the 32 minute with Jan van der Merwe and he took the field with Jenkins who have served his 10 minutes in the sin bin.
England were afforded a penalty try on the stroke of halftime and when Jennings slotted the easy conversion the English were 18-6 in front at halftime.
SA started the second half better, more assured in the scrum and much better in control of their ball. Coach Dawie Theron sent on Dan du Preez on for Rikus Bothma in the 49 minute in an effort to beef up the pack.
South Africa elected not to kick for poles on two occasions as their forwards got back into the battle.
Jennings landed another penalty with a half hour left to play to stretch the English lead to 21-6 after the SA wing Leolin Zas was called back from an intercept when a team mate was penalised for offside.
A minute later Thomson steered his first penalty of the second half wide.
With nine minutes left on the clock the English outside centre Nick Tomkins went over for to score England’s third try and with Jennings slotting the kick England were now comfortably ahead by 28-6. Tomkins was yellow carded moments later for an illegal tackle but by that time England was out of reach, with four minutes left to play and SA needing more than three tries.
Substitute Malcolm Jaer crossed the line for the first Junior Bok try, which Thomson converted from a difficult angle to reduce the deficit to 28-13.
South Africa the worked their way back into English territory and Daniel du Plessis then finished off a slick movement to score again (28-20). England kicked out the ball seconds later to advance to their third successive final.
Tries: Malcolm Jaer, Daniel du Plessis
Conversions: Brendon Thomson (2)
Penalties: Thomson (2)
Try: James Chisholm, Penalty Try, Nick Tomkins
Conversions Jennings (2)
Penalties: Rory Jennings (3)