Springbok win over Wales: 5 talking points
Sport24 Journalist, Herman Mostert, joined Benito Vergotine in conversation on The Honest Truth, talking Rugby World Cup. Can we bring the Webb Ellis trophy back home?
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Cape Town – Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following South Africa’s 19-16 Rugby World Cup semi-final win over Wales in Yokohama:
1. A step down in class
No one can argue that Sunday’s semi-final was a dull affair compared to Saturday’s England v New Zealand clash
England’s ball retention was a sight to behold against New Zealand but, sadly, the South Africa v Wales game was nothing more than a ‘kick-a-thon’.
Wales kicked 41 times from hand and South Africa on 40 occasions.
It was unfortunate that countless errors ensued from this, but the Boks won because they were superior at the set-pieces and there can be no doubt that they deserved to sneak into the final.
2. A defining period…
The Springboks deserve credit for the manner in which they closed the game out in the final 10 minutes.
Wales had equalised and when they launched 11 phases of attack deep inside Bok territory at the 72nd minute mark, South African fans were fearing the worst.
However, the staunch Springbok defence held out impeccably and it was replacement flank Francois Louw who won a telling penalty on the ground.
Louw redeemed himself having given away an offside penalty a few minutes earlier which enabled Wales to launch their attack.
Moments later, the Boks won a penalty off a powerful driving maul before flyhalf Handre Pollard coolly slotted the field goal.
The Boks went on to play the final few minutes in the right side of the field and it was impressive to see them leave their best for last.
3. Pollard comes to the party
He’s still not at his absolute best, but Handre Pollard’s man-of-the-match performance came just in the nick of time.
Unlike earlier in the tournament, the Bok pivot was impeccable off the tee, slotting all five of his kicks at goal.
There were a few tough ones and it was welcome to see Pollard step up in this regard when it really mattered.
I still think he can show more impetus on attack by taking the ball on the front-foot but his efforts helped pull the Boks through in critical stages against Wales.
4. Bok power and defence shone through
Overall, the Springboks proved just a tad too physical for the gallant Welsh. The Boks dominated at scrum time and troubled Wales with a few dominant driving mauls – including a telling one which set up the final match-winning penalty.
The Bok defence again proved vital – they made 147 tackles (11 missed) compared to Wales’ 74 (16 missed) and here the team’s unsung defence guru Jacques Nienaber deserves credit.
Physicality, solid set-pieces and staunch defence are of utmost importance in Rugby World Cup finals and it will stand the Boks in good stead against England.
5. England favourites, but…
There’s no doubt that England will go into the World Cup final as favourites. Their pack will back themselves to match the Springboks and they have superior class out wide.
Their ball retention was a sight to behold against New Zealand and all logic points to an England win.
However, the Boks won’t mind being the underdogs. They were unlucky not to beat England at Twickenham last year when Owen Farrell escaped with late shoulder charge on Andre Esterhuizen.
There will also be no fear factor for the English.
South Africa beat them in a home series last year and the Boks play the type of game that is tailor made for knockout rugby.
The Boks have arguably the best set piece and defence in the tournament and with a flyhalf whose boot can prove red-hot, they’ll back themselves.
The South Africans also proved in recent times against New Zealand how dangerous they are when written off and will by no means be overawed by the occasion…
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