South Africa will meet England in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final after a comfortable 37-13 win over Argentina in the second semi-final in Paris on Sunday.
The tension is over for a little while. We have two finalists. For the winning semi-finalists there is the serious preparation for the grand final on Saturday as Rugby World Cup 2007 reaches its climax. For the losing semi-finalists there is the drudge of the third-place play-off.
Argentina captain Agustín Pichot said it afterwards: "For us the World Cup is over." Next Friday's match clearly means little to them after this defeat. But heavens, they had made a fight if it, the Pumas' best-ever performance at the World Cup and after their early try in the second half it looked as if it could have been even better.
South Africa's victory in the semi-final was an odd one. At the end you were left wondering what they had done to win the match.
The obvious answer is that they had taken their chances. Four of those chances led to tries. In fact there were even three more chances to score tries which were squandered. For the rest they were not all that impressive.
The scrums were a disaster until Juan Martín Scelzo went off injured. While he was there the Springbok front row simply could not handle the Pumas and Agustín Pichot used the advantage in the shove to give Danie Rossouw and Fourie du Preez a miserable time at the back of the dilapidated Springbok scrum.
The tackle area, too, was sloppy as indeed it had been against Fiji. The support for the ball-carrier and the protection of the ball were poor, and the Pumas won many turnovers.
South Africa did not cope well with high kicks and until late in the second half were out-mauled by the Pumas.
Then, too, the Springboks who had generally been parsimonious in the matter of penalties during the World Cup suddenly gave away 14 (to 10) on the evening.
Oh, their line-outs were excellent. The line-outs kept them in the game. The Pumas won the first five line-outs without any competition from the Springboks while Victor Matfield, the wiliest line-out man in the world, sussed them out. Then the Springboks got involved and the Pumas lost seven line-outs and threw one in skew. The Springboks were so much better at the line-out that their reluctance to kick the ball out at times was surprising.
All of that said, the Pumas did not look like scoring a try apart from the one which they got, which John Smit afterwards attributed to a lack of concentralion on his side's part.
It was not as if the Springboks created much. Bryan Habana's first try when Schalk Burger won a turn-over was created and they did well to capitalise on a gross knock-on by Juan Martín Hernández for Danie Rossouw's try. On both these occasions skilful handling was the key.
Their best creation - all their own work, did not result in a try when Frans Steyn pushed ahead going right and the Springboks came back left for Habana to go over in the corner but they were called back for a forward pass.
Two tries from intercepts! They were neither of them hard luck but rather clever positioning. After the match the Puma coach Marcelo Loffreda rued his side's errors. "We made a lot of errors and paid a high price for them."
The Springboks must be the best poachers in the world.
The first try was an intercept. The Pumas had started the game well and clever Felipe Contepomi threw a long pass to his left - straight to Du Preez who raced down the field on a diagonal to his left to score a try which Montgomery converted. 7-0 after 7 minutes. There was nothing flukey about the try. Du Preez, a clever player, was in position waiting for the ball.
There was a lot of kicking early on, a lot of it inexplicably poor. Hernández dropped at goal from in front. It was a bad kick. He, Montgomery and Du Preez - all three excellent kickers - had trouble kicking with the ball out of hand. Was it that Stade de France was a bit slippery? Was it the problem with the balls?
When John Smit was penalised for obstruction on Pichot, captain on captain, when the Springbok looked more sinned against than sinning, Felipe Contepomi kicked the penalty. Later persuaded the referee to allow him a change of balls - an odd situation at a top ground so late in the top rugby tournament of the world. The referee allowed the change of balls and Contepomi missed the kick.
Almost immediately after this score, Manuel Contepomi was penalised at a tackle/ruck and Montgomery who had an immaculate evening of goalkicking, made the score 10-3.
When Steyn was penalised for holding on at a tackle, Felipe Contepomi made the score 10-6 after 29 minutes.
Then came Habana's first try, and it was thrilling. On the Springbok right Schalk Burger won a clever turn-over and the Springboks got quick passes going to Habana inside the Springbok half. He took off, lithe as a cheetah, chipped, gathered and raced over for a try that had taken him 55 metres to score in the blink of an electric eye. Montgomery converted.
The Springboks had a chance when the Pumas were careless under a Montgomery up-and-under and JP Pietersen was off on the way to scoring but Rossouw was penalised for a needless shove in the back as the ball came down.
On the stroke of half time, not particularly under pressure, Hernández knocked on. He knocked a long way on and Steyn gathered the ball. Under pressure he got the ball away to Jaque Fourie, Burger gave a great pass to Rossouw and the big man thundered over. Montgomery converted and the half-time whistle went with the Springboks leading 24-6, which seemed surprising as the Pumas had dominated territory and possession.
When James did not find touch from inside his in-goal early in the second half the Pumas countered and kicked the ball out not far from the Springbok line. The South Africans easily won the line-out and then marched the ball up. As happened with several of their mauls the Pumas managed to insinuate themselves into their ranks and won the ball. Suddenly Mario Ledesma was bursting for the line. Back the ball came and the Pumas went wide to the left. Manuel Contepomi with a man outside of him, cut inside Pietersen who slipped and he dived over. The TMO had a hard time before advising the referee that a try had been scored. Felipe Contepomi converted. 24-13.
It looked promising for the Pumas but they were not destined to score again in the match. They had a chance soon afterwards when the Springboks were off-side at a kick but Felipe Contepomi missed the shot at goal.
The Springboks had two chances after this. First there was the forward pass to Habana and then Rossouw looked set to score but Habana was penalised for being a little way ahead of Fourie's kick.
When Pichot was offside at a scrum, Montgomery made it 27-13 and then when Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe played Du Preez when he did not have the ball Montgomery made it 30-13.
The last try was again a bit of poaching. The Pumas were attacking and going right. Hernández threw a long pass but Habana snatched it out of the night air and, smiling with great contentment, raced over 70 metres down the field for a celebratory dive under the bar. Montgomery converted,.
There were a few minutes left. Substitutes came pouring on, the game became a bit bad tempered and eventually the final whistle ended the affair. In those fractious few minutes Juan Smith was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Hernández, to be followed by Felipe Contepomi for a back handed slap into Bismarck du Plessis's eye.
Man of the Match: Agustín Pichot and Juan Martín Scelzo made life difficult for the Springboks. Scelzo went off in the first half. Had he stayed he would have been a really strong candidate as he gave his side their best chance of winning. For the Springboks there were the flanks, Juan Smith and Schalk Burger - smashing into the Pumas, looking to use whatever ball they could get their hands on. But our man of the match was Bryan Habana for two excellent, long-range tries, adding glitter to the city of many glittering lights.
Moment of the Match: Any of the four tries the Springboks scored but above all Bryan Habana's first try. There was nothing lucky about the bounce of the ball. It did not matter where it bounced. Habana was simply going to score.
Villain of the Match: There were two yellow cards for Juan Smith and Felipe Contepomi. Felipe Contepomi probably deserved it more for he had just been spoken to for losing his head and then he, a surgeon, lost it even more with a bit of silly petulance. There should also be a communal award for all those players who gave the referee advice.
For South Africa:
Tries: Du Preez, Habana 2, Roussouw
Cons: Montgomery 4
Pens: Montgomery 3
Try: Manuel Contempomi
Con: Felipe Contempomi
Pens: Felipe Contempomi 2
Yellow cards: Smith (South Africa, 78, high tackle), Felipe Contempomi (Argentina, 79, punching)
South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 François Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Os du Randt.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Johann Muller, 19 Bob Skinstad, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 André Pretorius, 22 Wynand Olivier.
Argentina: 15 Ignacio Corleto, 14 Lucas Borges, 13 Manuel Contepomi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Agustín Pichot (captain), 8 Gonzalo Longo, 7 Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Lucas Ostiglia, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Carlos Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Juan Martín Scelzo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Omar Hasan, 18 Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Nicolás Fernandez Miranda, 21 Federico Todeschini, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi.
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Alain Lewis (Ireland), Chris White (England)
Television match official: Tony Spreadbury (England)