Television replays showed Baby All Blacks prop and captain Jamie MacKintosh dropping the ball over the line, but English referee Andrew Small signalled a try and fullback Miah Nikora converted to give the visitors a 10-point lead. South Africa fly-half Albertus Delport narrowed the gap with a penalty that maintained his 100 percent place kicking record in the match at Absa Stadium, but the host nation ran out of time after a titanic physical struggle.
New Zealand will be favoured to win the world title on Monday when they face France, who beat England 18-12 earlier in another tense duel with wing Mathieu Bourret scoring all the points. South Africa paid dearly for a disastrous start as poor tackling allowed New Zealand to score three tries and build a 20-3 lead that was cut to seven points by half-time.
A quick lineout and slick handling sent Jody Rose over for South Africa 20 minutes into the second half and Delport converted from the touchline to leave just three points between the sides before MacKintosh 'scored'. Television match officials are not being used at the championship because only a few fixtures
Meanwhile, Mathieu Bourret was the toast of France as they pipped England 18-12 in a World Under-19 Rugby Championship semi-final thriller here on Thursday. The Perpignan right wing scored all the French points by snatching two tries, one of which he converted, and kicking two penalties in hot, humid conditions at Absa Stadium.
All the England points came from the boot of fly-half Ross Broadfoot, who landed four penalties from seven attempts in a fiercely fought match that produced contrasting styles. France, who led 15-9 at half-time, always threatened when they ran the ball while an England team, plagued by unforced handling errors, preferred to drive forward via an impressive tight five.
Trailing from the seventh minute when Bourret cut through the middle to dot down, England applied fierce late pressure and constant French infringements led to Vassili Bost being sent to the sin bin by the South African referee.
France face South Africa or New Zealand, who meet at the same venue later today, in the final on Monday.