Baby Blacks to face a daunting South Africa
Forget what's happened in pool play. The real examination begins tonight for the New Zealand Under-20s.
Many thought it was all over for the hosts after the South Africans dismantled them on a still night at Albany on June 6.
But the Baby Blacks get another bite at the cherry against the form team of the competition.
They clash again with South Africa in the semifinals at North Harbour Stadium tonight.
The stakes are raised and New Zealand is thirsting for revenge.
Second five-eighth Anton Lienert-Brown sat out the bonus-point victory against Scotland on Tuesday, which saw them sneak into the fourth finals spot.
Tonight he resumes captaincy duties after Simon Hickey's ankle injury ruled him out of the tournament.
"Simon's a big loss - his leadership on and off the field is massive," Lienert-Brown said.
"But we've got good replacements. The mood in the camp's been pretty positive and has picked up through to the semis.
"This is a game we want to get back, a chance for a bit of revenge."
Richard Mo'unga should run the cutter, and has been playing the majority of the time in the No 10 jersey in the build-up to the tournament.
New Zealand has survived a scare - the prospect of missing out on the semifinals for the first time in the competition's history.
It would have been anti-climactic at the business end of the tournament, as far as home fans were concerned.
The key now for the New Zealanders will be to get their basics right, particularly in the lineouts and scrums, which were badly exposed against the Boks.
The Baby Blacks have a number of attacking weapons who can threaten in broken play, including wing Tevita Li and fullback Damian McKenzie.
"We're dangerous when we get our structure together," Lienert-Brown said.
"In that first 20 minutes (against South Africa) we showed that.
"We want to do that for 80 minutes and control the tempo."
Coach Chris Boyd wasn't giving anything away on the game plan but says execution needs to be better.
"South Africa is a pretty complete side, they're structured and simplistic."
As for the pressure from being the host nation and pre-tournament favourite, Boyd is using that as his main motivator.
Sunday Star Times