Springboks score stunning comeback win to sneak into Rugby World Cup final

England’s Freddie Steward out jumps South Africa's Kurt-Lee Arendse during Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final at the Stade de France

England’s Freddie Steward out jumps South Africa's Kurt-Lee Arendse during Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

Published Oct 21, 2023


There's fight in the old Springbok still!

And they will fight to retain their world title next weekend in Paris.

After struggling to get a foothold in last night's semi-final against England in Paris, a fightback led by South Africa's replacement bench, clinched a narrow one-point win by 16-15 and a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand.

It was not the best of matches by the reigning world champions, but they again showed the fight and resolve to keep their opponents out to win by the narrowest of margins.

A late try by replacement lock RG Snyman coupled with a penalty by ace flyhalf Handre Pollard and some massive defence that forced a knock-on, clinched the game.

Pollard, who replaced Manie Libbok after just over 30 minutes of play, showed again why he is a world-class kicker with that shot at goal. It was tough under immense pressure, but he calmly slotted the ball straight through the uprights to give his team the lead for the first time in the game.

After putting up a massive fight in the quarter-final last weekend, the Boks looked flat on their feet for a major part of the match and played with little vigour, allowing the English to dictate the play from almost the first minute.

It took the final 15 minutes for the Boks to snap back to reality, and it was again replacement prop Ox Nche and his massive scrummaging, but also his breakdown play, that made a difference and brought massive energy.

Loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Deon Fourie were immense as well when they came on. Fourie broke off the lineout and made the carry that led to the try by Snyman.

But it was a frustrating display by the former world champions and one they can ill afford in the final.

England had the Boks where they wanted them almost right from the start. They started playing a territorial game early on, and with their kick-chasers finding the ball in the air better than their opposition, it opened the door for continuous aerial bombardments.

And that is where English scrumhalf Alex Mitchell dictated play. He was immensely accurate with his box kicks that allowed wingers Elliot Daly and Jonny May and fullback Freddie Steward to chase with vigour and win or contest for the ball.

They won the very first contestable kick and managed to claim a few more, while Steward was brilliant when fielding kicks from the Springboks. It was baffling why the Boks continued kicking on him during the game.

The contesting and security under the high ball disrupted the South Africans until deep in the first half before wingers Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe could really find their feet when fielding kicks.

Mitchell also took the pressure off his captain and flyhalf Owen Farrell with some very accurate and long touchline kicks off the base of rucks. That allowed England to exit quite easily every time they received kickoffs or had defensive turnovers in their 22m area.

And those turnovers were the other downfall of the Boks.

Lock Maro Itoje was the main destroyer for his side when it came to the maul and he disrupted them time and again,

The Boks' inaccuracy at the breakdown was also costly although the South Africans can feel a bit hard done by some calls from referee Ben O'Keeffe in this part of the game.

But the biggest blip in the Boks' performance was probably from the tight-five.

They were bullied by England, especially in the tackle area. Double tackles came in at the rate of knots, and the tight forwards of the defending champions failed to get over the gain line with their runners.

Owen Farrell kicked all the points for the English and it looked as if it was enough to boot the Boks out of the tournament, but that grit and fight carried the Springboks over the line for one more shot at winning the World Cup for the fourth time and defending their title they won in 2019.


South Africa 16 — Try: RG Snyman. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Manie Libbok, Pollard (2).

England 15 — Penalties: Farrell (4). Drop goal: Farrell.


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