South Africa Edges England in Thrilling Rugby World Cup Semifinal 16-15

South Africa Edges England
Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Semi Final - England v South Africa - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - October 21, 2023 South Africa's RG Snyman celebrates scoring their first try with teammates REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

South Africa Edges England in Thrilling Rugby World Cup Semifinal

South Africa Edges England : In a nail-biting Rugby World Cup semifinal clash, South Africa’s Springboks triumphed over England with a dramatic scoreline of 16-15. Handre Pollard, who emerged as the match-winner, defied all odds to secure the Springboks’ place in the final against arch-rivals New Zealand. This intense showdown at the Stade de France unveiled several key takeaways that will be etched in rugby history.

Supreme Pollard for South Africa

In a thrilling Rugby World Cup semifinal, South Africa narrowly defeated England 16-15, securing their place in the final against New Zealand , Handre Pollard’s journey to the semifinal victory is a story of resilience and redemption. Initially omitted from the 33-man Springbok squad due to concerns about his recovery from a calf injury, Pollard’s return was a remarkable twist of fate. He made a triumphant comeback with just 30 minutes in a Premiership Cup game for his club, Leicester Tigers. Little did he know that he would soon find himself on a plane to France, replacing hooker Malcolm Marx as an injury replacement.

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Pollard’s role in the semifinal was crystal clear: claw South Africa back into the game at the rainy Stade de France. In the face of immense pressure, he showcased remarkable composure. Pollard hit an opening penalty and successfully converted RG Snyman’s try. With just three minutes remaining, he unleashed a jaw-dropping 49-meter penalty to secure the victory. Pollard’s precision kicking and his ability to rise to the occasion make him a hero in the eyes of rugby fans.

Bok Set-Piece Woes

One of the foundations of South African rugby has long been the dominance of their set-piece, especially in the scrum and line-out. However, the semifinal against England revealed a chink in the Springboks’ armor. The lineout misfired early on, offering England crucial advantages at key moments. England’s Maro Itoje soared to claim the Boks’ first throw-in, and hooker Bongi Mbonambi’s throw was deemed not straight in the second instance.

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A pivotal moment came when South Africa chose not to take a shot at the posts but rather opt for a kick to the corner. In such situations, a rolling maul is expected to bear down on the try line. However, the 12-man maul was impressively brought to a halt, and England was awarded possession. Another shot at goal resulted in a knock-on by Franco Mostert, adding to the Springboks’ woes.

While the forwards managed to win a scrum penalty, which Pollard converted for the win, the South African coaching staff, led by Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, will undoubtedly focus on shoring up the set-piece as they prepare for the daunting challenge of facing New Zealand in the final.

Steady Steward

England’s choice of full-back, Freddie Steward, was an interesting subplot of the semifinal. Steward had been a consistent presence in the England lineup, with a reputation for his exceptional aerial and defensive skills. He had started 29 of the last 30 Tests since his debut in 2021, making him a valued asset in the team.

Steward’s return as the full-back was a critical decision by coach Steve Borthwick, who opted to field him instead of specialist fly-half Marcus Smith. In challenging weather conditions, Steward’s contributions were evident. He adeptly defused the threats posed by South Africa’s contestable kicks, providing much-needed stability to the England backline.

Steward’s brilliant aerial skills were on display as he confidently fielded challenging kicks, setting the tone for England’s control of contested kicks. His one attacking contribution, returning a Manie Libbok kick, showcased his all-around abilities.

While Steward’s performance was nearly flawless, a late knock-on six minutes from the final whistle added tension to the match. The resulting scrum collapse led to Pollard’s game-winning penalty, sealing South Africa’s place in the final.

As South Africa prepares to face New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final, fans can expect an intense battle between two rugby powerhouses. The lessons learned from the semifinal, including the importance of set-piece execution and the value of steady performers like Freddie Steward, will be crucial as the Springboks aim to defend their title against the formidable All Blacks. Rugby enthusiasts worldwide eagerly anticipate this epic clash, where history will be made on the hallowed grounds of the Stade de France.

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