Set piece improvement lifts Juniors All Blacks
The set piece is of huge importance in the IRB Junior World Championship this year, and it finally clicked for New Zealand on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.
The 32-25 loss to South Africa in the semifinal at North Harbour Stadium couldn't be blamed on the set piece, unlike their pool play loss to the same opponents.
Hooker Hame Faiva was perfect in the lineout, finding his man on every one of his throws, while the scrum held its own against the far bigger South African pack.
Faiva said it was down to a strong team effort that the set piece worked, and admitted he's been throwing his fair share of lineout ball in training.
"We've talked about it all through camp, and I needed to lead from the front," Faiva said.
"I guess it was all up to the jumpers and lifters. Our timing was pretty good so that made my job easier.
"I've got to give big ups to the boys and the lineout callers.
"We've worked on it a fair bit, and it showed out there when we did it. We transformed it from training into the game."
When asked about the South African lineout and the players they had on Sunday night, Faiva had one name on his mind.
"Victor Matfield," he said. "Someone there will be the next Victor Matfield, and that's what their goals are.
"They are the best in the world at the lineout with Victor Matfield, and it's passed on to the younger generation."
South African coach Dawie Theron said New Zealand were strong tactically in the lineout, bringing a jumper in at the back of the lineout.
"The throw-ins on the night were really good, better than the first match. We always knew in the first game it was just a timing thing, and I must say they've done well there.
"At scrum time it was a great contest as far as I'm concerned."
Then there was the mauling.
Theron was left scratching his head at New Zealand's tactic of not engaging in the maul, leaving the South Africans to run the ball or incur a penalty for a truck and trailer.
He said the tactic is legal, and they expected it after Samoa did the same in Pukekohe last week.
"We did plan for it, so it didn't totally catch us off guard," Theron said.
The New Zealand team now have to get up for their third place playoff against Ireland, and Faiva said it shouldn't be a problem.
"That's the nature of professional rugby," he said. "We wanted to be in the final, but this sort of thing happens.
"We'll be raring to go on Friday night."
- Waikato Times