Yellow card referee Andrew Woodthorpe showed that substitute Yannis Potgieter, who came on after a teammate failed to assess a head injury, was the catalyst that saw the Boks concede late in the first half and trail 7-0 at the break.
The Junior Springboks, picking an unchanged team after their 24-16 win over Argentina in their last Group C game at the same venue on Tuesday, saw two penalties from Jan Smith early in the first half. However, Emad Khan put the crowd on their feet after finishing off a fantastic move at the back line in the first 10 minutes.
But the home side were wide open when player of the match Brian Gleeson scored from close range after the hosts had missed a tackle for the first time.
With a quarter of the game still alive, the Boks still had the Lions’ share of ground and possession, but they were their own worst enemy, and the Irish scored their third try after an advantage from a penalty kick. Prendergast copied and pasted a kick pass that saw Nicholson score his second try after an excellent driving strike set up field position. Back-up full-back Sam Pearman scored Ireland’s fourth try after a good run.
Despite the South African physique, Ireland dominated the set-piece battle and were a force among the teams in particular. The Irish stars put in a polished display in the second half and
South Africans lost the spring in their stride. The hosts scored a late consolation try by Coetzee le Roux but finished second in their own standings.
Ireland now face either France or England in the Northern Hemisphere Final in five days’ time while Junior Springboks play Pride in the third-place play-off.
South Africa U-20 – 12 (0) – Tries: Emad Khan, Coetzee, and Rowe. transformation: Gene Smith.
Ireland U 20 – 31 (7) tries: James Nicholson (2), Brian Gleason, Sam Berman; Transfers: Sam Prendergast (4); penalty: Prendergast.