Springboks fight back to knock out England and book Rugby World Cup Final date with All Blacks

Planet Rugby
Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard kicking at goal.

Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard kicking at goal.

The Springboks made it to back-to-back Rugby World Cup Finals after they edged England 16-15 in a wet-weather semi-final in Paris on Saturday.

It had looked for a long time like South Africa’s reign was coming to a surprise end when the Red Rose led 15-6 with only 12 minutes left on the match clock.

But a try from replacement lock RG Snyman was converted by Handre Pollard before the fly-half struck a long-range penalty on 77 minutes to seal the win.

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England‘s players sank to their knees at the final whistle, their hearts broken having given their all in a rematch of the 2019 final despite being distant outsiders, and it was an especially cruel moment for Owen Farrell given his outstanding night.

Farrell was at the heart of many of his side’s best moments and although the captain drew the now customary boos when his name was read out on the PA system pre-match, he replied by drawing first blood with a penalty.

Breakdown and line-out success, as well as Ben Earl blasting off the base of the scrum, were further early wins until a promising drive downfield ended with Farrell kicking his second penalty.

Three times in a row England turned over South African line-out drives, winning a penalty on the third of them to relieve the pressure that was building on their line.

Every aspect of an arm wrestle of a contest was being won by England, but they were also their own worst enemies as they gave away three needless penalties, one of them for a moment of petulance from Farrell that allowed Manie Libbok to land three points.

His eyes bulging, Farrell was playing on the edge and had to be escorted away from referee Ben O’Keeffe, but he regained his composure to re-establish the six-point lead.

Libbok became the fall guy for South Africa‘s woes when he was replaced in the 32nd minute by Pollard in the hope the 2019 World Cup winner would bring greater control.

Pollard’s first involvement was to boot a penalty and growing tension was evident as errors crept into both sides, but when Farrell found the target for the fourth time, England entered the break with a deserved 12-6 lead.

Rookie Leicester lock George Martin had been at the forefront of red rose resistance through his savage tackling and as the rain continued to fall there was no prospect of the game opening up.

Scrum-half Cobus Reinach and full-back Damian Willemse were the next to be pulled by South Africa, who now had Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux on the field, and then Eben Etzebeth followed them into the dugout.

The changes were a reflection of England’s control and just as the Springboks appeared to be clawing their way into contention, Farrell rifled over a sensational drop-goal.

England’s captain was striking gold with every touch as a wicked cross-field grubber caused Kurt-Lee Arendse to fumble, but South Africa were beginning to harvest penalties at the scrum.

Suddenly the Springboks went up a gear, their pack pouring forwards from a line-out for Snyman to score.

It was now all South Africa, who had discovered a new lease of life, and when the moment for glory came, Pollard stepped up to deliver his monster penalty.

The teams

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Ollie Lawrence

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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