Rachin Ravindra's half-century and four-wicket haul vaulted New Zealand to the top of Group A, thereby setting up a quarter-final against Afghanistan in Christchurch. South Africa, who fell short by 71 runs to finish the preliminary stage with two wins in three matches, will play Pakistan.
New Zealand's margin of victory after they posted 279 for 8 could have been much bigger if not for Hermann Rolfes, who struck a 124-ball 108 to lift South Africa from the pits of 76 for 4 in the 23rd over. In Jean du Plessis, he found a steady accumulator who was more than happy to remain in the background. During the first 50 runs of their 106-run stand, Rolfes' share was more than three quarters of it.
Rolfes was adventurous and the only South Africa batsman to commit himself into strokes against Ravindra's loopy left-arm spin. Off the fast bowlers, his picking of lengths to play the pull was particularly impressive.
Going into the last 10 overs, with South Africa needing close to ten an over, he decided to take it upon himself completely. It resulted in one big shot too many and was pouched at long-off by Dale Phillips. Du Plessis' dismissal in the 44th over, soon after he made a half-century, with South Africa still needing 81 off 41 effectively killed the chase. South Africa were eventually bowled out for 208 in 46.2 overs.
Earlier in the day, Ravindra and his Wellington Under-19 mate Jakob Bhula put together 108 for the opening wicket in 19.5 overs. But at no stage did South Africa feel completely out of it. Bhula, coming off a world record 180 in the previous game, was quite tentative as runs flew off edges and he mistimed drives to third man. After a number of pokes and misses, he kept slicing his off-side strokes behind square. Ravindra, in comparison, was more stylish and free flowing.
Once the opening stand was disturbed, Finn Allen, who made a sparkling hundred in New Zealand's opening win over West Indies, showed urgency right from the outset, hitting a six and four off Jade de Klerk to signal his intention. But a mix-up with Ravindra coupled with a sensational under-arm flick by de Klerk to the striker's end caught him short.
South Africa tightened the noose after Allen's dismissal. A mix of rash strokes and lack of application resulted in them losing five wickets for 28 in the middle overs to slip to 174 for 6. It needed a record seventh-wicket stand for New Zealand at the Under-19 World Cup to lift them close to 250.
The orchestrators were Dale Phillips, brother of international batsman Glenn Phillips, and Max Chu. The pair put on 77, thereby surpassing the previous record set by Anton Devcich and Sam McKay against Bangladesh at the 2004 edition, to help New Zealand to 279. Those extra runs gave them some breathing space in the middle overs on the face of a terrific Rolfes century that went in vain.