South Africa will face the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final after fighting back to beat England 16-15 in a semifinal that couldn’t have been any more different from the one at the Stade de France a night earlier.
Handre Pollard’s penalty with four minutes remaining from nearly 50 meters sealed it. It was the first time the world champions had led in the match; they appeared odds-on to lose after going into self-destruction mode almost from the first minute.
The match was played out in a seething, angry atmosphere, with only one try scored—the Boks getting over the line late in the match via replacement lock RG Snyman. The two teams had to be separated at the final whistle as frustration spilled over.
England were in charge for three quarters of the match, but the trouble for them was they couldn’t afford to pack down a scrum in the second half because it was an automatic penalty, with the Boks owning them in that set piece. That their final points came from a scrum penalty would have surprised precisely no one.
It meant England’s low-risk game plan became no-risk, and they utterly refused to use their backline for more than chasing high kicks until the final few minutes, when they had no choice. In the end, it was all too late. Clearly hoping for a penalty in the dying minutes, they instead meekly knocked the ball on.
It means the final next Sunday will be a repeat of the 1995 World Cup final won by South Africa. The current champions remain on track for back to back titles and their fourth in total. New Zealand will win their fourth if successful.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, who 24 hours earlier after his side thrashed Argentina 44-6 said he would watch this match with a little popcorn, will have noted how physical the contest was and how the Boks appeared short of ideas on attack. On this evidence, he won’t be too unhappy.
Snyman’s try with 12 minutes to go changed the complexion of the match. Before that it was as though South Africa had run into a version of themselves that was more organized, more connected, and dare one say it, committed and aggressive.
South Africa 16 (RG Snyman try; Manie Libbok pen, Handre Pollard 2 pens, con)
England 15 (Owen Farrell 4 pens, dropped goal)