That’s the assessment of Junior Springbok coach Bafana Nhleko after the two teams played out an exciting 13-13 draw at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina, Queensland.

The match was played in very wet and windy conditions, with a heavy downpour before the game creating puddles of water all over the field. The swirling wind, mostly in the South Africans' faces in the first half, further complicated matters.

The conditions made handling difficult, and while the Junior Boks struggled at the breakdowns, they were very strong on defence and carried the ball well. Stuck in their own half for most of the opening stanza, the SA U20s only had one attacking opportunity, but could not make it count and New Zealand led by 3-0 at the break.

“During the first half we had very little of the ball, but the defence – both in terms of our system and the players’ attitude and effort – was exceptional,” said Nhleko.

“I am very proud of the efforts today, especially in a very difficult first half. It was a great opportunity to gain experience in different conditions and learn going forward. Now, we must recharge and go again, with intent, on Tuesday when we play against Australia.

“I am pleased we could defend like that when you’re constantly under pressure and you don’t concede penalties. They managed to go around us though, and especially the last try was maybe a bit of defensive fatigue when we only had 14 players on the field, but we also got rewarded for our efforts. We can be a threat with ball in hand, which I hope we can show in the next match.”

Nhleko said they were pleased with playing their part in an exciting clash in front of a very appreciative crowd.

“Although we had good ball carries, we must look after the ball better on the ground, and to be clinical when opportunities present themselves,” said Nhleko.

“I think we were not as sharp with our kicking game, decision making on the front foot and managing the backfield, where we got pinned back and could not get of our own half. We will learn and grow from this experience because Australia will present a very different challenge.”

Australia lost their opening game by 25-6 to Argentina, who now top the log after the first round of action.