Rugby World Cup 2019: Giants of the Veldt

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard kicked 14 points, including the match-winning penalty that sent his country into their third World Cup final. Teammate Damian de Allende's (above) second-half try was another key moment in the Springboks' 19-16 win ove
South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard kicked 14 points, including the match-winning penalty that sent his country into their third World Cup final. Teammate Damian de Allende's (above) second-half try was another key moment in the Springboks' 19-16 win over Wales in yesterday's semi-final in Yokohama. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The Springboks will face England on Saturday, in a repeat of the 2007 World Cup final, which the South Africans won for their second title.
The Springboks will face England on Saturday, in a repeat of the 2007 World Cup final, which the South Africans won for their second title. PHOTO: REUTERS
South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard (above) kicked 14 points, including the match-winning penalty that sent his country into their third World Cup final. Teammate Damian de Allende’s second-half try was another key moment in the Springboks’ 19-16 win ove
South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard (above) kicked 14 points, including the match-winning penalty that sent his country into their third World Cup final. Teammate Damian de Allende’s second-half try was another key moment in the Springboks’ 19-16 win over Wales in yesterday’s semi-final in Yokohama. PHOTO: EPA–EFE

Pollard's decisive penalty helps Boks beat Welsh in tense match; England await in final

YOKOHAMA • There are myriad ways to win a game of rugby and as much as South Africa's World Cup semi-final performance yesterday was ugly - perhaps even cynical - it was ultimately efficient.

The last-four clash against the Six Nations champions Wales in Yokohama was an attritional affair, featuring 31 set pieces and the ball being kicked an incredible 81 times (40 to 41) during play. At the end, the Springboks advanced to their third final after a taut 19-16 win.

Although it was decided at the death, the two-time world champions had just a little too much muscle for Wales, whose coach Warren Gatland admitted "once we were in that arm wrestle, it was attrition".

And if anyone is expecting Saturday's final with England to be a more free-flowing contest, Boks coach Rassie Erasmus, who had showed his intentions by loading his bench with six forwards and only two backs, said his game plan would be more of the same.

"We've given ourselves a chance. We've played England four times in the last 18 months (Test wins tied at two apiece) and we are accustomed to how they play.

"They're a lot better than the last time we played them, especially with the way they dismantled New Zealand. I'm not 100 per cent sure the final will be won by an expansive game plan with wonderful tries... we will go and grind it out."

On the defensive slugfest with Wales, Erasmus claimed they had "to match" their opponents' strengths in order to wrestle their way to victory.

  • WALES V SOUTH AFRICA : DOWN TO THE WIRE

  • 15TH MIN: 0-3 Handre Pollard penalty

    18TH: 3-3 Dan Biggar penalty

    20TH: 3-6 Pollard penalty

    35TH: 3-9 Pollard penalty

    39TH: 6-9 Biggar penalty

    46TH: 9-9 Biggar penalty

    57TH: 9-16 Damien de Allende try and Pollard conversion

    65TH: 16-16 Josh Adams try and Leigh Halfpenny conversion

    76TH: 16-19 Pollard penalty

"We know they are a team that strangle the life out of the opposition... so we expected that," he said. "It might not have been a great spectacle to watch, but the boys stuck to their guns and adapted to that."

Handre Pollard, who kicked five penalties, including the decisive one four minutes from time, also warned Eddie Jones' men they were prepared to "grind it out".

The fly-half said: "It is something we believe in. That's what it takes to win playoff games and World Cups.

"We weren't accurate at stages, but we ground it out and that's something we'll take a lot of confidence off going into next week.

"Physically, they (England) have stepped it up to a new level so we're going to have to stop them... it's two sides that really pride themselves on a good kicking game as well. So, it's going to be a good chess match."

If there is an area where the Boks can improve ahead of the showpiece final, it is discipline.

They conceded nine penalties against the Welsh, something England's fly-half George Ford and captain Owen Farrell will capitalise on and Faf de Klerk urged his teammates to learn from last night.

"The main thing is going to be penalty count. Our penalty count was way too high," he said.

While the scrum-half is usually the smallest man on pitch, standing a diminutive 1.72m, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in aggression.

Promising to bring that same physicality against the Red Roses, de Klerk added: "We've bought in to what we want to do every week.

"Part of our success is that everybody is on the same page with that. I'm pretty excited for when I get a good kick up in the air and I can really start chasing because I know it's a fifty-fifty.

"I do enjoy getting physical. It's part of the game and you need to be up for it. So if I can maybe add a bit of that, it just gives a bit of motivation to the rest (of the team). I need to be up for it as well. We know there's one final goal that we need to reach, so on to the next one."

The Boks' "death by 1,000 kicks" approach may not win over the neutrals, but it allows them to get down field, and having lifted the trophy in 1995 and 2007, their massive pack is now one step from wearing down England.

Their fans back home, in the cities and countryside (or veldt in Afrikaans), believe destiny is in their hands.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2019, with the headline 'Giants of the Veldt'. Print Edition | Subscribe