Day 38 at the Rugby World Cup: South Africa win to set up England final showdown
England will face South Africa in the World Cup final after the Springboks narrowly got the better of Wales in their semi-final in Yokohama.
Handre Pollard kicked the decisive penalty four minutes from time in a 19-16 win which will not live long in the memory but sets up a repeat of the 2007 final.
South Africa won 15-6 on that occasion in Paris but England will be firm favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy following their impressive victory over defending champions New Zealand in Saturday’s first semi-final.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look back at Sunday’s action and ahead to next Saturday’s showpiece.
Can South Africa beat England in the final?
Based on the semi-finals, England are deservedly odds-on favourites to win the World Cup for the first time since 2003.
Pollard’s performance for South Africa proved that England will need to keep their discipline and avoid giving away kickable penalties, but otherwise the Springboks posed little attacking threat against Wales.
The worry for England is that they peaked a match too early with their brilliant performance against the All Blacks, although head coach Eddie Jones was quick to stress that his side still has room for improvement.
“We are not historians. We know we can play better next week and we are going to have to play better, whoever we play,” Jones said.
Extra day to rest could prove vital
England have played one game less than South Africa, due to the cancellation of the group game against France, and also have one more day to ensure some of their key men are fit.
Scrum-half Willi Heinz has been ruled out of the final with a hamstring injury and England also have concerns over captain Owen Farrell, wings Jonny May and Anthony Watson and prop Kyle Sinckler.
Farrell suffered a dead leg against New Zealand and although he completed the game he handed over kicking duties to George Ford and the extent of his hobbling in the first half set alarm bells ringing.
May could only last 45 minutes before he succumbed to the same problem, Watson required treatment for an upper body injury and Sinckler departed in the 47th minute with what appeared to be a calf issue that Jones will hope is not serious.
What happened in 2007?
The 2007 World Cup final between England and South Africa was a tight contest ultimately decided by penalties, with Percy Montgomery kicking four and Francois Steyn one for South Africa, while Jonny Wilkinson managed two for England.
However, England felt they should have scored a try early in the second half when Mark Cueto was ruled to have put a foot in touch during a tackle by Danie Rossouw before grounding the ball.
“I watched it on the replay and I thought it was a 100 per cent try,” Cueto said after the game, but television match official Stuart Dickinson crucially did not share the same view.
What went wrong for Wales?
Wales coach Warren Gatland unsurprisingly acknowledged that his side paid the price for conceding too many penalties to South Africa, with those that were in range of the posts all successfully kicked by Pollard.
“We probably gave away too many penalties in our own half and that cost us dearly but I’m proud of the fact that we never gave up and got ourselves back into that game and we were in the arm wrestle,” Gatland said.
“Two or three scrum penalties, a couple of line-out penalties are disappointing and that’s the difference between the two teams.
“The dream was that my first game was in charge of Wales was against England and so the last would be against them as well, but it was not to be.”
Josh Adams may have ended up on the losing side but his sixth try of the World Cup makes him the leading scorer, one ahead of Japan’s Kotaro Matsushima and South Africa’s Makazole Mapimpi.
What happens next?
For Wales it is an anti-climactic third/fourth place play-off against New Zealand on Friday, a match which marks the end of the long coaching reigns of Gatland and his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen in their current posts. For South Africa it is on to Saturday’s final against England.