What's hot and what's not from the World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham
New Zealand booked their place in the 2015 World Cup final with a narrow win over South Africa at rain-soaked Twickenham, their bid to become the first side to successfully defend their title still on track. Their ill-discipline meant they made hard work of it, conceding 13 penalties to South Africa’s six, but tries from Jerome Kaino and Beauden Barrett allowed them to close out a win against the Springboks, whose points all game from the boots of Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie.
Slick kicks – Putting boot to ball was a clear tactic of New Zealand’s. It wasn’t just one player doing it – Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ma’a Nonu and Ben Smith all getting involved – or just one type of kick – there were grubbers, chips, Garryowens and more. The All Blacks looked to test South Africa under the high ball and turn them in defence – and in the second half it reaped rewards, although not directly. Beauden Barrett grubbered through for Julian Savea and although the winger knocked on as he tried to collect the ball, South Africa couldn’t clear from the resulting scrum, lost the ball and, a few phases later, Barrett went over in the corner after Ma’a Nonu drew JP Pietersen off his wing.
Boks at breakdown – South Africa seemed to have the edge in a lot of the fiercely-contested breakdowns in the first period and won key turnovers deep in their own half, allowing them to clear pressure. Francois Louw played a significant role as the Springboks looked to control the contact area, but the backs were getting involved too – Damian De Allende and Handre Pollard also turning over ball when at the ruck. There weren’t many scrums, but the Boks generally had the nudge there too.
Defensive wall – The Boks never looked like scoring a try but, more significantly, the All Blacks never looked like leaking one. Their defence was solid throughout as they missed just three tackles while the Boks missed 19. Even when South Africa went to their go-to weapon of a driving maul in New Zealand’s 22, the All Blacks drove them back. In fact, they stole four South Africa lineouts during the game – no mean feat – and in the final minutes, as the Boks tried to launch a match-winning attack from close to their own line, New Zealand made tackle after tackle to contain them in the 22. They may have conceded a lot of penalties but their defence was not going to concede a try.
Getting it in the neck – Officials were given a directive before this World Cup to look out for neck rolls at the breakdown and Joe Moody was penalised for one on Duane Vermeulen in the first half, allowing South Africa to clear when New Zealand had been awarded a penalty for a lineout offence. The same happened to South Africa in the second half when Victor Matifeld was pinged. It was the number of tackles that seemed to end up around neck height that was more of a concern however. Schalk Burger was one such player whose arm often ended up at his opponent’s neck when he made a hit – but he was far from the only one. Players need to get lower when making a hit.
Pre-match entertainment – All the flags and bright lights being waved around behind the posts before the teams came out was reminiscent of a group of air-traffic controllers bringing a plane into its designated gate. All rather unnecessary.
Odd facepaint – One member of the crowd was spotted with an NFL logo painted on his cheek. Whether or not he’d found himself at the wrong event, we’re not sure, but it certainly seemed a strange choice of design. Let’s hope he now knows what the better oval-ball sport is having watched this semi-final!
Six – The number of turnovers South Africa won in their own half, twice as many as New Zealand.
92 – The number of metres made by Nehe Milner-Skudder, 40 metres more than any other. Overall New Zealand made 398 metres compared to South Africa’s 146.
5 – The number of clean breaks made by New Zealand compared to two by South Africa.
South Africa: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D De Allende (J Serfontein 80), B Habana; H Pollard (P Lambie 65), F du Preez (capt); T Mtawarira (T Nyakane 53), B du Plessis (A Strauss 53), F Malherbe (J du Plessis 60), E Etzebeth, L de Jager (V Matfield 60), F Louw (W Alberts 29-35), S Burger (W Alberts 64), D Vermeulen.
Pens: Pollard 5, Lambie.
Yellow card: Habana (52)
New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder (B Barrett 49), C Smith, M Nonu (SB Williams 52), J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; J Moody (B Franks 69), D Coles (K Mealamu 67), O Franks (C Faumuina 52), B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino (S Cane 67), R McCaw (capt), K Read.
Tries: Kaino, Barrett. Cons: Carter. Pens: Carter. DG: Carter.
Yellow card: Kaino (39)
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Man of the Match: Ben Smith
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