Springboks vanquish Poms in a thriller to set up World Cup final with All Blacks

A collapsed scrum and penalty in the final seconds gave South Africa its one-point triumph.

A collapsed scrum and penalty in the final seconds gave South Africa its one-point triumph. Photo: Getty

South Africa have pulled off a great escape to come from nine points behind and beat England 16-15 at the death, keeping alive their title defence at the Rugby World Cup and setting up a blockbuster final against arch rivals New Zealand.

One of them will win a record fourth Rugby World Cup and – after England’s agonising exit – the trophy is once again set to stay in the southern hemisphere.

The Springboks trailed for the entire semi-final against England until replacement five-eighth Handre Pollard kicked a 78th-minute penalty from near halfway at Stade de France to edge them thrillingly ahead.

From there, the Boks closed out a second come-from-behind nailbiter after the one-point win over host France in the quarter-finals.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a lot of relief in this moment,” Pollard said.

“Frustrated we weren’t at our best tonight, especially in that first half. We knew we had so much more to give but fair play to England, they put us under pressure in exactly the right areas.

‘What we stand for’

“But, jeez, the fight we showed never giving up, it is what we stand for as a team and as a nation.”

That 29-28 win over the French last weekend required the South Africans to dig as deep as they ever have at a Rugby World Cup. The defending champions had to do it all over again to stay in with a chance of becoming only the second team after New Zealand to retain the World Cup.

The final is on Saturday (next Sunday AEDT), back at Stade de France.

Pollard was thrown on in only the 31st minute when it was all going wrong for South Africa.

England executed their gameplan to perfection to be in control for the first hour, sending kick after kick from the base of the ruck or from captain Owen Farrell at five-eight down onto the Springboks, who struggled with the high bombs all day in the rain in Paris.

From those kicks, England gained the crucial territorial advantage and Farrell kicked four penalties in the first half and a long-range drop goal in the second to put them 15-6 ahead with less than half an hour to play.

Last-minute penalty

South Africa’s comeback was down, once again, to its bench players. It started with a try to replacement lock RG Snyman in the 69th minute, which was only the Springboks’ second visit to the English 22 of the half. Pollard’s conversion put them two points behind at 15-13.

The Springboks’ set-piece misfired for most of the game — mostly down to English pressure — but they won a scrum near halfway in the closing minutes and replacement props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch set themselves for a huge heave.

The scrum went sideways and the Boks won the penalty they were looking for, leaving Pollard to send the highest of pressure goalkicks through the middle. Pollard was South Africa’s 2019 World Cup-winning five-eighth but joined this campaign only midway through because of injury.

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber, who will leave after the World Cup and might have thought his time was up in the semis, put his head down on a desk in the coaches box and covered it with his hands at the end as the Springboks erupted in celebration.


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