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RWC 2023

Pollard’s late penalty gives Boks last gasp semi-final win over England

Pollard’s late penalty gives Boks last gasp semi-final win over England
Handre Pollard of South Africa kicks the second penalty goal during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Springboks are into their fourth Rugby World Cup final after beating England 16-15 in the semi-finals.

South Africa 16 (6) England 15 (12)

They did it again! Somehow the Springboks emerged victorious in an almighty arm wrestle to beat England 16-15 to set up a date with the All Blacks in next week’s Rugby World Cup 2023 final. 

Handre Pollard stepped up to land a 49-metre penalty three minutes from time after the Boks won a third scrum penalty. It underlined Pollard’s ice-cool temperament and the Springboks’ never-say-die attitude.

They still had to fend off a sustained England attack in those final, desperate three minutes and they clung on. When the slippery ball squirted from Billy Vunipola’s grasp, Bok players fell to their knees.

This was the definition of winning ugly, yet beautifully.

For almost the entire 80 minutes it felt like it wasn’t going to be the Boks night. They just couldn’t build momentum until they started winning the scrum battle in the second half.

Players of South Africa and England contest the maul during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

In the 69th minute the Boks won a scrum penalty and Pollard found a great touch close to the England goalline. The Boks secured the lineout ball, Deon Fourie burst at the line but was stopped short. The recycled ball went to RG Snyman who drove and twisted his way over.

Pollard converted and the Boks were where they struggled to be all match – in striking distance with 10 minutes to play. The rest, as they say, is history.

The bench was deployed early and changed the game with Ox Nche and Vincent Koch’s scrumming, helped by the brilliant Snyman, Kwagga Smith and Deon Fourie, the effervescent Faf de Klerk, who provided needed energy and of course the Zen-like calm of Pollard.

Deon Fourie of South Africa during is tackled by Elliot Daly of England the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Despite the Springboks producing their worst performance in the Rassie Erasmus/Jacques Nienaber era when they could least afford it, they still displayed the mettle to win when it mattered most. Had they lost – and they came close, it would have hurt for years because they hardly fired a shot.

It was an error-strewn performance that lacked the same energy they’d displayed so stirringly against France a week earlier. The effort of that match clearly told as the performance lacked the obvious verve from six days earlier. 

Franco Mostert of South Africa wins the ball in a lineout during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

England also deserve credit as they played effectively in the conditions, with fullback Freddie Steward having an outstanding evening. He held every high ball that showered down on him while everyone’s favourite villain, Owen Farrell was highly effective with the boot.   

The Boks were staring down the barrel at the break with England leading 12-6 in treacherous conditions.

It was a nervy, jittery performance from the men in green – a far cry from their strutting performances throughout this tournament – even when they lost to Ireland.

The rain and swirling wind certainly made the game a bit of a lottery. But losing three of their own lineouts in the first half, conceding a scrum penalty and getting on the wrong side of referee Ben O’Keeffe at the breakdown didn’t help the Boks. 

By halftime, Farrell had landed four penalties, while the Boks had spurned a few kickable chances early in the game and never managed to get their maul working. 

Flyhalf Manie Libbok struggled in the conditions with many of his up-and-unders being too short. Coach Jacques Nienaber eventually hooked the unfortunate flyhalf in the 32nd minute and brought on Pollard. 

It was another example of the bold coaching approach by the Bok mentors, but they had issues all over the field despite enjoying 71% territory in the first half.

It told the story of the opening 40 minutes – England coming away with points with every opportunity they had while the Boks squandered possession and were outmuscled in the tight exchanges.

Aerial bombardment 

Initially, the Boks also failed to deal with England’s aerial bombardment from scrumhalf Alex Mitchell, which led to the early penalties.

Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi both gave away two first-half penalties. Both were unlucky with their first two infringements in early breakdowns when they appeared to have won the ball legally, but O’Keeffe saw it the other way.

Siya Kolisi of South Africa looks on during the Rugby World Cup 2023 semi final match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images)

The referee suffered a torrent of booing when he did his warm-up and every time he appeared on the big screen. He, of course, was the man in the middle during the Boks’ epic quarterfinal win over France. 

After finally gaining a foothold in the game the Boks decided against shots at goal for their first two kickable penalties, instead kicking for the corner. England defended the mauls well and eventually escaped.

 After halftime with the rain teeming down and conditions becoming more difficult by the minute, Nienaber threw on almost all his reserves between the 45th and 5oth minutes to bring an energy that was lacking, but the mistakes kept piling up. 

In fact, England might have put the game away just after halftime when they had two lineouts five metres from the Bok line and lost both through a skew throw and then when the ball slipped out of hooker Jamie George’s hands.

Farrell hit an outrageous 54th-minute drop-goal from near the halfway line to stretch the lead moments after the Boks’ best attack after they pushed England off their own scrum ball.

That put nine points between the sides, which in these conditions was more than daylight; it was a solar flare.

RG Snyman of South Africa celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It felt hopeless for most of the match, but then the bomb squad and Pollard exploded. 

The dream of back-to-back titles is still alive. DM

 Scorers:

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

England – Penalties: Owen Farrell (4), Drop-Goal: Farrell.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    I Believe,Ox was brilliant ,Pollard calm.Bokke!!!!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    An ugly win – I feel sorry for England.

    But I’ll take it for sure.

    True grit award to the Boks and the coaches. It must have as painful to play as it was to watch.

    Yours truly,

    a guy 5 years older than he was 2 hours ago.

  • Anil Maharaj says:

    Congratulations to the Books. But seriously, England should have won.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Viva Siya Kolisi! Viva the BOKS!

  • André Pelser says:

    A well deserved victory! Playing Ireland, Scotland, France and England took its toll on the players, also the wet and windy conditions. Farrel’s unpunished foul on Reinach right in front of the England goalpost – he should have got a yellow card and us a penalty, was unforgivable, and would have been a talking point for years had we lost. O’Keefe, like in the Ireland game, was exasperating in the calls in the rucks and malls, thank goodness we had a few scrums and Pollard steppend into the breach!
    A truly guts and glory display by the Boks, a very special group of men, plaudits to their coaches for instilling their never say die attitude.

  • Colin McGee says:

    Does it seem reasonable for the RWC to have selected a Kiwi ref for a game where the winner would play against his home side?

  • alistair.brande says:

    I could not understand why we persisted with the arial route of attack when England totally dominated this aspect of play.
    We were lucky but as a friend of mine said “England played for 70 minutes we played for 80”

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Was the Arial route not the cleanest way to go?

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Unfortunately that was the weather, but I’m afraid Manie didn’t do too well either. Although he plays down here in the Cape now, I think it takes a while to get used to it, and he played most of his rugby up in the Eastern Cape and Pretoria before he got here.

  • Georg Begemann says:

    Champions will find a way to win, even when they have a bad day at the office!

  • ilike homophones says:

    A truly guts and glory display by the Boks, a very special group of men, plaudits to their coaches for instilling their never say die attitude.
    We were lucky but as a friend of mine said “England played for 70 minutes we played for 80”
    Farrel’s unpunished foul on Reinach right in front of the England goalpost – he should have got a yellow card and us a penalty, was unforgivable, and would have been a talking point for years had we lost.

    a big thank you to Ashwin Willemse for providing additional information …. … ..

  • julian.wannell says:

    England were robbed by some very questionable reffing, especially around the scrums. Tactically, England outplayed their opponents by stifling the SA game and sticking to strategy. No point crying over spilled milk – England’s is a very young side, which has a great chance of getting to the final in 2027. Would be interesting to find out if indeed Mbonambi was guilty of a racist remark to Tom Curry – that would upset the apple cart if he isn’t allowed to play next week end.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      England played the same game they always do, and just struck lucky the weather was on their side. Kick and rush rubbish, which unfortunately the Boks aren’t used to. They play ‘real’ rugby. I didn’t realise Curry had complained about Bongi. Says he called him a ‘white c***’. Frankly, I’d have a bone to pick with Bongi to. C***s are useful!

  • Rob Wilson says:

    Seriously now, could we still be playing things close to our chest? I didn’t know that England had pythons that could squeeze that hard. That was too close for comfort. I went Boks by 10 but I will take the 1. Well played by both teams.

  • @craigray. Your writing is MONUMENTAL. Probably one of the BEST journos in the world. Flipper, do I dare say, in the multiverse? Damn these Bokke are going to give the country a collective heart attack. These 1 point wins are becoming a problem for us. But hey as one of the commentators mentioned, a “win is a WIN”. Whether it is a whitewash or a single point. It is a WIN nonetheless. Hayi shame these Bokke make me SO PROUD to be a South African. This team has UNITED us in a way few have. Siyamthanda Kolisi’s captaincy is heartwarming and tear-inducing. Rassie is my guy. The BEST of the BEST. Jacquie is BRILLIANT. RG Snyman, an Afrikaner Viking (hopefully I don’ offend my brothers and sisters here). Ox well YINKUNZI (an OX). Faf is ALWAYS Fafillicous. But on a serious note. WIN or lose I am FOREVER PROUD of the 2023 Rugby squad. These guys have put their guts for the glory of our BEAUTIFUL (but flawed) country. I LOVE my country and ALL her people. What I have witnessed in the last month and half is what our esteemed sinyanya (ancestor) Tata Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela called a “rainbow nation”. We are TRULY STRONGER TOGETHER. Now off to be the sleeping south hemisphere giant, the mighty All Blacks…

  • John Whitehead says:

    What a pity that Dweba rather than Am wasn’t called up!! Bongi must be exhausted and Esterhuizen and Moodie must be wondering why they are there! Hopefully there will also be some changes to the starting 15 in the final to alleviate the obvious fatigue that last week’s starters experienced yesterday.

  • Denis Goffinet says:

    Well done bokke! Please beat the All Blacks by more than one point. My nerves can’t take anymore of these close calls.

    And well done to the proteas on their record defeat of England in the Cricket World Cup. Suprisingly no mention of this anywhere!

  • Gary McLean says:

    This was an incredible performance from a team that seemed and down and out yet from the brink of despair and hopelessness sprang spirit and hopefulness. The Springboks are an incredible never-say-die team .. an inspiration to all

  • Amanda Dinan says:

    Great writing by Craig Ray and the most excellent comments in the chat. Nail biting match, from our worn-out team. It was exhausting to watch! Let’s hope they rest up this week for a great game next Saturday.

  • Prav Tulsi says:

    It is a beauty when South Africa wins something as a rainbow nation but and the big but, why does the powerball and lotto not go beyond the MR120 mark.
    Answer : the ANC manipulates the system after cut off time and pays some people to shut their mouths.

  • ian bowes-taylor says:

    lets be honest fellows ,England dont deserve to have won the game , they couldnt even score a try against us even when we had played so badly, with Owen moaning and ranting and raving though out the game , they needed a calm leader who could find another way of getting to the try line.

  • Tleli Makhetha says:

    Brilliant photos to drive the article home. Well done.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Lukanye Amm for the final? We need experience and strong tacklers.

    Also Kriel is an ideal bench player, he can play centre, wing and fullback and has played in all these positions in a test.

  • Joseph du Hecquet says:

    Exactly

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