NZ stumble into SA's way
WALES' shock 9-6 win over New Zealand on day two of the IRB Junior World Championships has made South Africa's task of reaching the last four more difficult.
The Baby Boks were always going to be up against it after losing their opening Pool B match 23-19 to Ireland. But a 52-3 win over Italy in atrocious conditions on Friday put their campaign back on track.
If New Zealand had beaten Wales in Pool A, the Baby Boks would only need to beat England to qualify for the last four. But now they have to beat England and score a four-try bonus point owing to the unusual tournament structure.
The winners of the three pools automatically qualify for the last four, with the best loser earning a wild card into the semifinals. The latter avenue has been all but taken away from the Baby Boks.
Ireland meet Italy in their final Pool B match and SA have to work on the probability that Ireland will take five points from that - meaning they would have 10 points after three games. SA have six points now.
If the Baby Boks beat England without a bonus point, a tough assignment in itself, they would also finish on 10 points but would end as runners-up in the pool, as they lost to Ireland.
Qualifying as the best loser is unlikely as New Zealand, who play Fiji in their final pool encounter, will in all likelihood earn five points from the match and move to 11 points.
The only way for SA to keep their dream of winning the title on home soil alive is by producing a deluge of tries against England, who have conceded only three tries so far, and in so doing go to 11 points - thereby eliminating Ireland.
England also have the comfort of knowing that a win will take them through to the last four regardless of how many tries they score, having collected nine points in their first two matches.
The match has been moved to Cape Town stadium because heavy rain reduced the Danie Craven pitch in Stellenbosch to a mudbath. The fast, dry conditions of the impressive pitch will encourage a high-scoring match.