England U20s were beaten 26-12 by the Junior Springboks at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium on Friday.
England trailed 14-7 at the break with South Africa scoring converted tries through David Kriel and Rewan Kruger while Ben Loader went over in response with James Grayson kicking the extras.
Tries from Junior Springbok duo Rewan Kruger and Rikus Pretorius either side of Henry Walker’s try sealed victory for the visitors.
The fixture was arranged as preparation ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship in France (30 May – 17 June) in which England meet Argentina in Narbonne (30 May, 5.30 KO BST), Italy (3 June, 3.30 KO BST) in Perpignan and Scotland (7 June, 8pm KO BST) in Pool B at Beziers’ Stade de la Méditerranée.
Narbonne and Perpignan will host the semi-finals and ranking play-offs on 12 June, with Béziers hosting all finals day matches on 17 June across two pitches.
South Africa had the first points of the game with Kriel diving over in the corner for the first try of the game which Gianni Lombard converted.
Loader scored a superb individual try to go over in the corner after bouncing out of a couple of tackles to dot down and Grayson’s conversion levelled the score.
Kruger bundled over from five metres for a second Junior Springbok try with Lombard adding the extras.
Centre Luke James came on at half time for his England U20 debut joining lock Joel Kpoku who started the game while Sam Morley also played his first game at this level.
Lombard missed a second penalty of the game five minutes into the second half but South Africa had a third try with Erasmus crashing over off the back of lineout maul for 19-7.
England hooker Walker also bundled over off the back of a lineout maul to reduce the deficit to seven points.
However, Pretorius’ scored a fourth off an intercept on half way to end any hope of an England comeback.
England U20 head coach Steve Bates said: “It’s always disappointing to lose an international but we knew it was going to be a chance for us to try different combinations, give players a first taste of U20 rugby and we have to take those things into consideration as well as the positives from the fixture. We know what we have to work on.
“Fair play to South Africa, they were very physical, they played well in the first half and drove the lineout well, but when at half-time we solved that problem we gave a good account of ourselves. They scored a late intercept try so we have to be too careful not to judge things solely on the scoreline.
“This will be far more useful for us than having a 50-point victory over lesser opposition. This will stand us in good stead heading into the World Rugby U20 Championship and will also be useful for us to refer back to when we go to France.”
England: Tries – Loader, Walker Cons – Grayson
Junior Springboks: Tries – Kriel, Kruger, Erasmus, Pretorius Cons – Lombard 3
15. Tom Parton (London Irish), 14. Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby), 13. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), 12. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), 11. Ben Loader (London Irish), 10. James Grayson (Northampton Saints), 9. Ben White capt (Leicester Tigers), 1. Alex Seville (Gloucester Rugby), 2. Gabriel Oghre (Wasps), 3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 4. Joel Kpoku (Saracens), 5. James Scott (Worcester Warriors), 6. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), 7. Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby), 8. Tom Willis (Wasps).
16. Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby), 17. Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints), 18. Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints), 19. Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers), 20. Josh Basham (London Irish), 21. Rory Brand (London Irish), 22. Sam Morley (Exeter Chiefs), 23. Luke James (Sale Sharks).