Final four narrowed to two
By Maxx Steinmetz
The final four countries left in the World Cup played for a berth into the final this past weekend. The Springboks (‘Bokke”) of South Africa faced the New Zealand All-Blacks, whilst the Wallabies of Australia took on Los Pumas of Argentina. These four sides are no stranger to each other, each year they compete in the Rugby Championship tournament, the southern hemispheres annual display of their nation’s prowess.
South Africa vs. New Zealand
After the All-Blacks performed the “Kama Te” Haka (a cultural challenge and tradition to the Maori of Pacific Nations), fans immediately began to echo each other shouting “All-Blacks!” or “Bokke!” hoping to urge their sides to the final.
The first half was dominated by the kicking game, with penalty kicks peppered in by Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard, and punctuated by a try from All-Black Jerome Kaino. Kaino also managed to earn a yellow card before the half time break for kicking the ball from an offside position after it had squirted out of the base of a ruck.
The All-Blacks trailed at the half 12-7, but the pedigree of the All-Blacks came through yet again. After some hectic line-out scrambling, All-Black fly-half Dan Carter started to scoring to the second half with a drop goal, only the sixth in the tournament.
In the 51st minute, All-Black replacement Beauden Barrett dived into the corner for a try — despite Springbok winger Bryan Habana knocking the ball from All-Black scrum-half Aaron Smith’s hands, a penalty that he was yellow carded for.
Habana’s yellow card put the Springboks into too much of a hole, and they were fighting to get into the game for the remainder of the half, and as South Africa legend Victor Matfield knocked the ball on in dead time, the Springboks’ dream of regaining the William Webb Ellis Cup from the defending champions was crushed.
Argentina vs. Australia
In this first half, there was indeed the speed, passing, and high pace to be expected from these backs oriented teams, but there was a sense that both side were trying too hard even though Rob Simmons scored off of an intercept and Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed the whitewash twice for the Australians in the first half, the half-time score of 19-9.
The second half tightened up a bit and made for better technical rugby to watch. While watching a kicking game doesn’t often produce a high scoring game, it made for some good rugby. The score line remained within sight of Argentina to stage a comeback until in the 71st minute when winger Adam Ashley-Cooper gathered an ugly pass from his partner-in-crime Drew Mitchell, who had just gone on a blistering, tackle busting run.
Ashley-Cooper’s hattrick earned him man-of-the-match honors, though one could argue for the merits of the loose forwards Fardy, Pocock, and Hooper for the honor.
So the New Zealand All-Blacks will be defending their title against their trans Tasmanian Sea rivals, the Wallabies. This rivalry has stood since 1903, yet it is the first time in world cup history that these two have met at a final. The match takes place on Halloween, Oct. 31, with the Springboks and Pumas having a last hurrah, playing for third place on Oct. 30.