I was all ready for a fantastic match as two of rugby’s heavyweights went head to head in the first semi final but South Africa vs New Zealand turned out to be a disappointment. It just seemed to be that neither could get the space to really get going.
New Zealand struggled initially, and in the first half gave away far too many penalties, which Handre Pollard successfully turned into a 12-7 half time lead. Kiwi try scorer Kaino wound up in the bin after the ref tired of repeated warnings to the men in black.
Whatever was said at the break seemed to work, as New Zealand came back in far better shame. They held their nerve to take control of the match, thanks in large part to the sensational work of Dan Carter, who racked up ten points on his own.
A second try in the second half and the Springboks lost ground, and only managed six points in the second half. The All Blacks lacked the flair they’d shown against the French but did display a lot of mental strength and force of will. Going behind is tough, and it was clear that they were edgy, but they got themselves under control, got their game working and got the win they just about deserved.
It was hard not to feel bad for the South Africans, but they paid the price for failing to effectively kill off the match.
The second semi saw Australia take on Argentina. The Argentinians had done magnificently against Ireland while the Australians squeaked a victory against the Scots at the very death of their quarter final, thanks to an awful refereeing decision.
They started strong here however, getting a try on the board in the first minute after second row Rob Simmons intercepted an obvious pass and darted for the line.
The Australians controlled the game and stopped their opponents getting the space to attack. With their threat neutralised the Argentinians had to rely on the boot of Nicolas Sanchez who got all their points. Three Sanchez penalties meant they trailed 19-9 at the break, Adam Ashley-Cooper added a brace of tries to Simmons’ opener, the second being the better as a long, high wide pass from Matt Giteau found the winger in space.
In the second half Sanchez traded penalties with Bernard Foley, and the South Americans were only seven points behind with twenty minutes left. But they couldn’t find a way through the Australians who kept up the pressure.
With less than ten minutes it was all over as Ashley-Cooper bagged his hat trick. The try came as a result of a phenomenal run from the other winger Drew Mitchell. In a magnificent display of individual skill Mitchell darted and dodged almost the width of the pitch avoiding numerous tackles to gain ground. When the pressure on him built he resisted the urge to try and go for solo glory and instead fed the ball to Ashley-Cooper, who had an easy run in.
The Argentinians were devastated, their coach in tears, but it was hard not to be impressed that by the men from down under. They may not have deserved the win in the quarters and benefitted from luck, but here their victory was well earned and all of their own work.
It sets up a New Zealand vs Australia final, and I’m going to go with the All Blacks, with South Africa getting the third place consolation. I’m currently 4/5 on my predictions.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.