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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Pumas Bow Out As South Africa March Into Final

Pumas Bow Out As South Africa March Into Final

Sunday’s World Cup semi-final proved a game too far for a brave but tired Argentinian side as tries from Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana (2) and Danie Rossouw helped new tournament favourites South Africa set up a decider against England.

WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL: Sunday, October 14

SOUTH AFRICA 37 ARGENTINA 13, Stade de France, Saint-Denis (Att: 80,000)

Scorers: South Africa: Tries: Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana 2, Danie Rossouw; Cons: Percy Montgomery 4; Cons: Percy Montgomery 3
Argentina: Try: Manuel Contepomi; Con: Felipe Contepomi; Pens: Felipe Contepomi 2

Argentina’s dreams of reaching a first ever World Cup final were ended by the clinical Springboks, who capitalised on a series of errors from the Pumas and benefited from a 100% kicking display from full-back Percy Montgomery to remain on course to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time since 1995.

Scrum half Fourie du Preez and winger Bryan Habana grabbed intercept tries in either half, while the ‘Boks also turned a spilt ball from Argentina out-half Juan Martin Hernandez into a touch down for number eight Danie Rossouw.

Habana’s try in the first half, which saw him chip over the top, collect the ball and gleefully dive over, also came from a turnover near the ‘Boks 22, so you could understand the frustration and heartache which Agustin Pichot and his team-mates felt at full-time.

There was a sour finish as ‘Boks flanker Juan Smith, who put in a high tackle on Hernandez, and Argentina centre Felipe Contepomi, who lashed out at Bismarck du Plessis with his left arm, were both sin-binned in the closing minutes.

But although the 24-point winning margin was decidedly flattering, South Africa were deserving winners and they will be heavy favourites to beat England in next Saturday’s showpiece final – given that they handed the English a World Cup record 36-0 defeat in the tournament’s pool stages last month.

On Sunday, they set out on the road to victory in the sixth-minute when, with the Pumas pressing, a wayward pass from Felipe Contepomi was picked out by du Preez who has the pace to run all the way to the whitewash from his own 22.

Montgomery converted and as the game settled, it became evident that both teams were content to kick possession away in a bid to force the other into a mistake. Contepomi cut the deficit with a penalty when ‘Boks captain John Smit was whistled up for interfering with Pichot off the ball.

But Ignacio Corleto was penalised minutes later for holding onto possession on the deck and Montgomery kicked his side into a 10-3 lead. Contepomi replied again before Habana struck for his first try, five minutes before half-time.

Schalk Burger wrestled the ball off Gonzalo Longo at the breakdown and the ‘Boks launched a thrilling counter attack. Francois Steyn spun a huge pass out to the left where Jaque Fourie put Habana into space and the flying winger kicked ahead, gathered the ball and beat the Pumas cover to notch a brilliant individual try.

Disaster struck again for the Pumas just before the interval when a poor pass from Pichot was coughed up in midfield by Hernandez and a string of passes out to the left saw the ‘Boks make use of an overlap to put man of the match Rossouw over for a sucker punch try.

24-6 in arrears at half-time, the Pumas needed a lifeline and they got off to a morale-boosting start in the second half when numbers out on the left saw Manuel Contepomi slice through for what was a debatable try.

Turnover ball was carried forward by Longo and Mario Ledesma, who brought play up to five metres from the South African posts, and a quick switch out to the left allowed Contepomi ghost through but television replays showed that the centre might have lost control of the ball as he went over the line. Television match official Tony Spreadbury awarded the try but those replays looked inconclusive.

Still, the score, which was converted by Contepomi’s twin brother Felipe, gave the Pool D winners an avenue back into the semi-final. However, errors continued to blight their game and with key men Pichot, Hernandez and Felipe Contepomi playing nowhere near their usual high standards, Marcelo Loffreda’s side just could not add to their tally.

A Pichot error allowed Montgomery bang another penalty through the posts in the 71st-minute and another place kick from the South African number 15 soon made it 30-13.

The scoring was completed moments later when a loose pass from Hernandez to Lucas Borges was gobbled up by the electric Habana and he dashed 70 metres and in under the posts for his eight try in six matches at this World Cup.

Montgomery’s conversion, which took his top-scoring haul for the tournament to 93 points, was the final nail in the Pumas’ coffin. Loffreda’s men won many admirers over the past month but he feels his nation now needs more frequent competition and games against the world’s top teams, rather than tour matches, to fulfil their potential.

“For us this has been something we have been preparing for for some time. We don’t have international competitions and for this reason we don’t have the same facilities,” he said.

“Other teams are accustomed to playing more often. We were beaten by a great team. They were certainly better than us (on the night). We were victims of our own mistakes.”

South African coach Jake White, although happy at his side’s progress through to the final, was quick to note what a difference out-half Jonny Wilkinson makes to the England team – he missed the game between the sides in the pool stages.

“We must not write England off. They’re a different team when they have Jonny Wilkinson at number 10. They also have several players with the experience of winning the World Cup in 2003 and that’s a bonus.

“What happened in the pool stage is not relevant. It will be a totally different ball game next Saturday,” White admitted.