Paris, Wellington, London (16/10 – 45)
Two former champions are showing their strength, as New Zealand and South Africa are through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup semifinals, at the expense of the two best teams in the world. New Zealand and South Africa – the pair ruining Ireland and France’s dreams of becoming a new champion in this tournament. Ireland and France tried their best, but the pedigree of New Zealand and South Africa as former champions could not be denied.
On Saturday at Stade de France, Saint-Denis, three-time champions New Zealand prolonged Ireland’s quarter-finals curse. Before this year’s tournament, Ireland had never been able to get through to the semifinals. Andy Farrell’s team looked unbeatable as they cruised past the pool stage with a total of 17 successive victories since last year. The world number one must be thinking that 2023 would be their year.
On the other hand, New Zealand suffered humiliation in their first pool stage match when they were defeated 13-27 by France. But, New Zealand regrouped after that defeat and they showed what they were made of. In the quarter-finals, The All Blacks withstood three comebacks from Ireland.
The Irish, always on the backfoot, trailed 0-13 and 10-18 in the first half, and by 17-25 in the second half, before a penalty try made it a one-point contest with a little more than 15 minutes left. The All Blacks held out for an astonishing 37 phases in defence in a thrilling finale to their victory. The game ended 28-24 with New Zealand’s triumph.
“This was a special day for us. I’ve lost my voice. I think the world’s been talking about these two quarter-finals for two years,” said New Zealand’s Coach Ian Foster, mentioning the clash of the titans between France and South Africa in the other quarter-finals.
“Sometimes the sweetest victories are those when your opponent tests you to the limit. What an incredible finish to a Test match. It’s pretty clear defence won us the Test match,” said New Zealand’s Captain Sam Cane.
In the semifinal on 20 October also at Saint-Denis, New Zealand will face Argentina, who eliminated Wales 29-17 in the other quarter-finals on Saturday.
On Sunday, another blockbuster match that was worthy of the Final itself was contested between the world number two France and defending champion South Africa. The hosts’ hopes of winning a maiden Rugby World Cup title were crushed as South Africa won 29-28, in a nail-biting and spectacular contest at the Stade de France. None of them deserved to get knocked out, given the breathtaking display of rugby.
The Springboks withstood a Paris storm and trailed 19-22 at half-time. They twice came from behind with a try by Eben Etzebeth, as a Handre Pollard penalty sealed the narrowest of wins for the title holders.
“It was a hard game. We knew how tough it was going to be with the French team at home and honestly, I just want to say well done to them for what they’ve achieved and how hard they’ve worked,” said The Springboks captain Siya Kolisi.
“Credit to the French. We knew it was going to be this tight. I think everybody knew it was going to be a big battle. Two good teams and unfortunately, or fortunately for us, we were on the right side of things,” added Jacques Nienaber, South Africa’s Head Coach. In the last four on 21 October at the Stade de France, The Springboks will meet another former champion, England. England through to the semifinals, after a 30-24 win over Fiji.