BAGSHOT (England) • Far from being daunted by the prospect of facing a rampant New Zealand side, South Africa are excited at the challenge awaiting them in their Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham on Saturday.
The world champion All Blacks demolished France 62-13 in their quarter-final in Cardiff, sounding a warning to their rivals. The Springboks watched part of the game after returning to their hotel following their tense 23-19 win over Wales.
"We managed to watch snippets of it, it was a great performance from their side," flanker Francois Louw told reporters yesterday.
"They were always going to be a strong outfit going into this tournament so for us it is not a concern in the sense that to be the best, you have to beat the best. Our paths have crossed a lot in the past, it's a bit of a derby really, and we are expecting a tough game."
After the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in Johannesburg during the 2014 Rugby Championship, coach Heyneke Meyer felt it was a victory that gave them the belief they could force a repeat at the World Cup.
However, it also served as a rare success for the Boks against their great Southern Hemisphere rivals, that has seen them manage just two wins in their last 12 meetings.
"I hope people write us off again, that seems to work," Meyer told reporters after the Wales victory.
"We believe only a (tournament) win is good enough. There's no reason why we can't, but obviously it's not going to be easy."
Getting into the semi-finals alone was difficult, with the Springboks needing a late try by captain Fourie du Preez to overcome Wales.
The two-time champions were a point down with five minutes left when, off the back of a scrum, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen's superbly-timed pass released scrum-half du Preez, who went in over on the blindside as a training ground move worked to perfection.
Fly-half Handre Pollard kicked five penalties and a drop goal for the Springboks with Dan Biggar landing 14 points for the Welsh, whose brave defensive effort came up just short. "Gutted not to get through but we can leave the pitch with no regrets," said captain Sam Warburton.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE