We’re all still catching our breath after a weekend of epic quarterfinal matches, with absolute classics in the form of the Ireland vs New Zealand and France v South Africa matches, both of which could be placed in the category of greatest rugby World Cup matches of all time. Now we head into the semifinals weekend, with New Zealand playing Argentina and South Africa playing England. And while the All Blacks and the Springboks will both be favourites for those matches, enough drama has occurred thus for every pundit to know that anything can still happen.
Check out our preview of these semifinals:
Argentina v New Zealand, 21:00, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Referee: Angus Gardner
Argentina finally came to the World Cup party in their quarterfinal against Wales, coming back from being 10-6 down at halftime to eventually triumph 29-17. While Argentina was behind Wales for large portions of the match, they actually had the better of play but were stifled by their own mistakes. Eventually, they scored 2 tries and went ahead of Wales in the last 15 minutes.
New Zealand surprised the rugby world by defeating Ireland 28-24 in a classic World Cup quarterfinal match for the ages. The All Blacks were in a unique position as underdogs prior to the match but stamped their authority early by going ahead 13-0. Ireland then fought back, and the New Zealanders led by a slender 18-17 at halftime. Ireland never led the whole match but would not give up and put together 37 phases in the last play of the game, but could not break through an impenetrable All Blacks’ defence.
New Zealand will be heavy favourites for this match owing to their lopsided winning record against Argentina. However, Argentina has beaten the All Blacks twice in the last 3 years, and the New Zealanders will have to be switched on to make sure they do not slip up in this semifinal, which has happened to them before. The All Blacks will likely try to stamp their authority from the start and race away to a big early lead, playing the dynamic, fast-paced game that the team is renowned for.
Conversely, Argentina will hope that the match is an arm wrestle played at a slower pace and tied up in the forwards, with a lot of tactical kicking involved. If they can suffocate the All Blacks attack, man up in the forwards and take all their opportunities, then the Pumas could shock the Men in Black. More likely, however, is that the All Blacks will thrive on their newfound confidence and put Argentina away easily.
England v South Africa, 21:00, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
While England managed to defeat Fiji 30-24 in their quarterfinal, they got a major fright when the Fijians scored 2 quick tries to level the contest at 24-24. England maintained their composure though and managed a drop goal and another penalty to eventually pull away from the islanders. It has to be said though that England were not convincing in this win and were outscored by 3 tries to 2 against opponents that they were favoured to beat, despite their recent defeat to them prior to the World Cup.
South Africa managed to squeak past France 29-28 in a nail-biting contest that many pundits have recognised as one of the best rugby games of all time. Backed by a raucous home crowd, France played like a team possessed, dominating all the statistics for the match, including possession and territory, and led 22-19 at halftime, with 3 tries from both teams. But they couldn’t put the Bokke away, as the men in Green and Gold hung on in the face of a relentless French attack and were clinical in taking the opportunities that came away.
Trailing 25-19, they managed to make their way upfield from their own 22, resulting in Eben Etzebeth scoring a decisive try that put the Springboks in the lead. France attacked right to the last minute in the Bokke’s half until Faf de Klerk ripped the ball away from prop Reda Wahrdi and it was kicked out in glee to signal the end of a pulsating match.
While South Africa often prefers to be underdogs in big matches, they will have to carry the mantle of favourites in this semifinal, with most scribes and fans expecting an easy win for the Bokke. Those who have watched rugby for years though know that upsets can happen when you least expect them, and England will be motivated to not only beat South Africa but gain a measure of revenge for their comprehensive loss to the same team in the 2019 final.
England will hope for a grinding game dominated by close-quarter play and will seek to feed on Springbok mistakes that will allow their sharpshooter goal kicker (and captain) Owen Farrel to bang over penalties and drop kicks. South Africa will hope to dominate the physical exchanges and enable their exciting outside backs such as Cheslin Kolbe, Damian de Allende and Kurt-Lee Arendse to come into the game. As ever, Springbok director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber will have a few tricks up their sleeve to counter England’s plans.
Get Your Game On
Who’s your money on? Whatever happens, get behind the boys and bet now at www.gbets.co.za