Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are all through to the semifinals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. It was a weekend of close encounters, barring the All Blacks thrashing France. The semifinals loom and if they are anything like the weekend’s matches, we’re in for a treat. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
And so it has turned out that we can keep all our jokes about northern hemisphere rugby as the Rugby World Cup hosts and the other northern teams have all been knocked out. South Africa are up against the All Blacks and Argentina will do battle with Australia in the two semifinals.
It was an emotionally fuelled weekend full of twists, turns and epic drama. If the semifinals are anything like the weekend gone by, then everybody might need at least a month to recover before the final. Here are five talking points from the first round of knock-out games.
The All Blacks turn it up
Twitter suggested that a week of prayer be declared before South Africa and the All Blacks square off in their semifinal next weekend. Anybody who watched New Zealand run riot against the French, trashing them 62-13, would have started to feel a little bit uneasy about what awaits the Boks next weekend. Silky, skilful, running rugby saw New Zealand notch up a convincing win and while they were helped enormously by France’s sheer ineptitude, it was still a feast for sore eyes. But, here’s the thing: when the Boks and the All Blacks play each other, especially in crunch encounters, they bring out the best in each other. South Africa have been far from their best in the World Cup thus far and maybe this massive encounter will be the kick up the backside they need.
The French are revolting
No World Cup is complete without the French throwing a hissy fit, it seems. Prior to Saturday’s match there were rumblings of discontent emerging from the France camp. Apparently the French bid coach Philippe Saint-André and his game plans “bon voyage”. Although many were surprised to learn that France had a game plan to begin with, it clearly did not do them any good in the quarterfinals. Their defence was rancid, their attack non-existent and their embarrassment was revolting. Ag shame.
The Boks and the great escape
Make no mistake, Wales lost the game on Saturday, the Boks did not win it. It came as a great delight and surprise to Bok fans that Fourie du Preez managed to find the try line despite not being able to find a pair of matching boots, but here we are. Play that game again, even with all Wales’ injuries, and the Welsh would win it 8/10 times. To beat the All Blacks, South Africa will need something exceptional. Yes, New Zealand have their own issues with pressure, but South Africa were hardly convincing under the cosh.
Argentina emerge from underneath the radar
Since their opening match against New Zealand, Argentina have been somewhat in the background of this World Cup. They have quietly made their way through this competition without anybody noticing too much. But Argentina have been a team on the rise for quite some time, underscored by recently beating South Africa. Against a depleted Ireland they were run close, but came out with a convincing win in the end. While it’s highly unlikely that they will go further than the semifinals, their rise through the ranks of World Rugby has been encouraging.
Craig Joubert probably shouldn’t go on holiday in Scotland
Scotland against Australia was the most intriguing match of the quarterfinals without a doubt. Australia, the team so many thought would run riot against their northern hemisphere opposition, was pushed to the brink. Scotland thrived off Australia’s mistakes and delivered some epic rugby, including a superb intercept try. The tension continued to build and with just two minutes to go, Scotland were leading 32-34. Heartbreak would soon follow as they conceded a penalty, decided straight by referee Craig Joubert. But the decision caused much consternation from the Scottish fans – and on the internet. The SuperSport panel reckon the right call was made while others think the television match official (TMO) should have been called in. But the rules state that TMOs can only be called in for certain cases, and checking a knock-on is not one of them. TMOs can be used for offences in the build-up to a try, foul play, or the scoring of a try. However, “deliberate offside” might fit into “foul play” so the debate will forever rage on. It wasn’t the only dubious call either and Scotland fans will be hurting for some time. When the final whistle blew, Joubert sprinted off the pitch instead of shaking hands, something many fans took even more issue with. Considering his sprint and the way the game panned out, Joubert should probably avoid Scotland as a holiday destination for a little while. DM
Photo: New Zealand’s captain Richie McCaw (R) leads the Haka during the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA.