7 Jun 2014

World Champs hopes on line after NZ loss to Junior Boks

11:33 am on 7 June 2014

The New Zealand under-20 men's rugby team have lost their crunch Junior World Championship pool match against South Africa in Auckland.

The Junior Springboks won 33-24, scoring four tries to three at North Harbour Stadium.

The New Zealanders led 17-14 at half-time, and their captain Simon Hickey says there was a good feeling in the sheds then, before the South Africans poured on the pressure with their dominant set piece, and ran away with the game.

Hickey says they struggled to get out of their exit zone from there, and couldn't win enough possession with their set piece struggling - the team coughed up five lineouts and had far more handling errors.

One bright spot was a hat-trick to the Blues wing Tevita Li, including a brilliant individual second try where Li gathered the ball 10 yards inside his own half and beat five defenders to score under the posts.

Li says he isn't giving up hope just yet of making the semi-finals, he's proud of the team and they'll bounce back to hopefully make the top four, by beating Scotland on Tuesday.

But their fate now relies on other results.

To reach the semi-finals, New Zealand must beat Scotland with a bonus point and hope Ireland doesn't score a bonus point win over Fiji - who France thrashed 37-5.

Elsewhere, the defending champions England all but booked their semi-final place with a 38-24 bonus point win over Australia, Ireland beat Wales 35-21, Samoa beat Scotland 27-18, and Italy edged Argentina 29-26.

The Junior Springboks now just need one more point from their last pool game against Samoa to top the group and reach the semi-finals.