South Africa managed a tight 23-19 victory over Wales in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham in London, allowing the Springboks to progress to the semi-final of the competition, where they will face a very difficult encounter against the All Blacks of New Zealand.
A late try by captain Fourie du Preez after an excellent scrum and good work from Duane Vermeulen allowed the Springboks the advantage in the game, while solid kicking from Dan Biggar of Wales and South Africa’s Handre Pollard provided for the other points, aside from an early Welsh try from Gareth Davies.
The Welsh were incredible good at the breakdown, but the South Africans dominated all other elements of play, though they struggled to impose themselves and turn the dominance into points throughout the game.
Thankfully from a Springbok perspective, the team was able to inch ahead towards the end of the encounter, putting experience to the test and coming out on top to knock the Welsh out and secure their place amongst the final four teams.
Speaking to the media after the test match, South African coach Heyneke Meyer revealed his gratitude and pride concerning the performance from his charges.
“I wanted to kiss Fourie, especially after that try. I’ve always said that coaching is overrated. You need to pick guys with character. And character is like charcoal and under pressure, you get diamonds,” he said, according to SuperSport.
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“Right at the end, to score that try, showed some pace from my captain. They say he doesn’t have pace anymore, but he was awesome. We kept composure and scored when it mattered,” he said.
Meyer had great praise for his players. “I must give all those players respect. A guy like Schalk came back from an injury. People said he is an old player and he came through. People said they are all old players. I also take my hat off to the youngsters. Lood [de Jager] was injured in the first half and played on, and to the young centres, to keep Jamie Roberts out defensively was great. You have to back the right players and I will go to war with these guys,” the coach added.
Explaining the move that effectively won the Springboks the match, captain Du Preez had praise for Vermeulen, who passed him the final ball that allowed him to sprint for the try line.
“We wanted to go for a penalty scrum but it held up and we saw the scrumhalf was covering behind the scrum. I just said we are going to dummy to the right, and Duane must just go to the flank. Obviously I didn’t think he was going to give a backflip pass and I was going to score,” Du Preez told the press conference, according to SuperSport.
“It was an unbelievable pass and to give it to me and put me in that gap shows what an unbelievable player he is.”
The captain added, “I think about 60 minutes there were a few of their guys lying down and they tried to slow the game down. I just thought look, they are off their feet at the moment and we have a lot of gas left, just keep on pushing them and hopefully we will get through.”
The man of the match was 32-year-old South African veteran Schalk Burger, who managed 26 ball-carries and led with the typical stubborn determination and grit that he is known for.
Speaking to the media following the announcement of his man of the match award, the flank was honest and humble in his musings.
“It could have gone either way, but the big thing was composure. The whole game from minute one was on a knife-edge. We obviously knew that this game was going to be won in the last 10 minutes. For the older guys, a lot of credit to them, they stayed calm. There were a lot of youngsters playing their first World Cup quarterfinal. Hopefully, this will stand us in good stead for next week,” Burger stated, according to Sport24.
“We need energy but I think in big situations you also need a few old heads. We’ve pretty much seen it all in rugby, the senior players in this team. I’m going to drink as much beer as I possibly can. That was pretty intense. I need to relax now,” the popular player admitted with a huge smile on his face.
The Springboks will now prepare for a semi-final on Saturday against the defending champions New Zealand, who defeated France 62-13 in an incredibly one-sided affair that showed the All Blacks’ class and ability.