3rd Play-off: Australia 5-32 South Africa
By Rich Freeman
South Africa beat Australia 32-5 to claim third place at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 and match their final position of the inaugural tournament in Wales last year.
Heavy rain at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo meant both teams struggled to hold onto the slippery ball and it was the Baby Boks that adapted best, with their pack dominating in the tight and loose, and their defence holding firm.
The Australians were always playing catch-up rugby after South Africa came out of the blocks the quickest.
Francois Brummer, the leading point scorer in the Championship, kicked a penalty in the second minute, before South Africa increased their lead just three minutes later.
Australia tried to run out of defence from a five-metre scrum, but Jake Schatz's pass was intercepted by Lionel Cronje and the fly half went over untouched. Brummer was unable to add the extras as the Australians charged the kick down, but he made up for it in the ninth minute.
Ross Cronje and Christiaan Stander launched a good counter-attack, which was finished off in style by Gerhard van den Heever, the wing following up his own chip ahead to touch down in the corner. Brummer made no mistake this time with a well struck conversion from the touchline.
The game had been played mostly in the Australia half but a strong run by Ben Tapuai finally put them in a position from which to score.
From a line out five metres out, Australia kept it in the forwards for a number of phases before Albert Anae bulldozed over, the try awarded after referee Keith Brown consulted the television match official.
Despite the rain both sides tried to run whenever the opportunity arose, but the slippery ball and some good tackling meant the only further score in the half was a well-struck penalty by Brummer in the 20th minute to give South Africa an 18-5 lead at the break.
The second half saw Australia play with more urgency but they were unable to turn pressure into points as despite dominating territory and possession they couldn't find a way past a well organised and brave South African defence.
In contrast, South Africa made the most of the two opportunities that came their way.
Nicholas Hanekom picked up a loose ball just inside his own half in the 52nd minute and raced away for his side's third try, which was again converted by Brummer as South Africa all but killed the match off by putting 20 points between the two teams.
A 90-metre intercept - again by Cronje - a minute from time simply rubbed salt into Australia's wound. The Australians could at least draw some comfort from having improved their position of fifth in 2008.
POST MATCH REACTION
South Africa coach Eric Sauls: "Well done to the boys, a brilliant performance to end the tournament like that. We are very proud of them, they played a very good game. Well executed, this was exactly what we planned, we planned to be physical, to dominate them up front, to take it up forward, that was our idea to just soften up in front, and as soon as the gaps went open, we went outside.
"It is just a pity that we lost against England, that was just the coin falling on the wrong side, we were unlucky, but obviously we developed for the last three weeks, we gained momentum, it was great and well done."
South Africa captain Robert Ebersohn: "It was odd for us coming back after the loss (against England), it was hard to pick the guys' spirits up, so we worked on that a lot and just came out and enjoyed the game.
"There is a lot to take out of this, there is a lot of experience now growing up, some of the guys are staying for next year, but I think the guys are going forward with experience, some loss, some winning, a lot of lessons that we learnt. We are still here, to watch the final, we really wished to play in that, but we did the best we can.
Australia coach David Nucifora: "We certainly created enough opportunities to win two or three games of rugby, but the conversion rate under that pressure was pretty poor. South African players stole the game with a little or few mistakes, and we made enough of them for them to win the game.
"We had a good time, enjoyed Japan, they learnt a lot in Japan, learnt a lot about playing tournament rugby, and learnt a lot about playing rugby at a high level. For young blokes, this is why you come here, this is why you do it and now it is theirs to see how they will apply this in going forward.
"These tournaments are about being consistent and play well for the five games that you are required to and we probably let ourselves down a little bit with that consistency, so that is something we will all take away."
Australia captain Damien Fitzpatrick: "I am very disappointed, that is probably a good way to sum it up. We came out to play some rugby today, but obviously the conditions and our mistakes didn't allow us to do that.
"All credit goes to South Africa, they played the conditions, they stuck to their game plan, and we didn't adapt to it and they scored off our mistakes so we are truly disappointed to finish the tournament like that, but now we get up and hopefully learn from it."