Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are the only teams left standing at this year’s Rugby World Cup. It is the first time in the tournament’s history that the northern hemisphere has been shut out of the semi-finals. We take a look at the upcoming matches and make some bold predictions as to who will emerge victorious.
New Zealand v South Africa
There are few rugby rivalries as intense as the one between the All Blacks and the Springboks. The two sides are outspoken in their admiration for each other, as are the coaches, Steve Hansen and Heyneke Meyer. Over the past week, the two seemed unable to stop themselves from fawning over one another’s talents and character. All of that will, of course, count for very little come Saturday. The first semi-final at Twickenham is set to be a tightly fought affair.
If the South Africans are to get into their third Rugby World Cup Final, they will have to, among other things, keep Julian Savea under control. “The Bus” has hit a rich vein of form, evidenced by his runs down the flanks against France last Saturday. In the mid-field, the young trio of Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel will have to play the games of their lives to best the vastly experienced Kiwi trio of Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
The All Blacks will also have to be at the top of their game to get past the South Africans. The Bok loose trio is coming into some imposing form, with Duane Vermuelen improving with just about every minute of rugby he has played in this tournament. But the player that will be giving the world champions sleepless nights is Springbok captain Fourie Du Preez. There is no other player who has played more than 10 games against the All Blacks and maintained a win ratio of more than 50%. If South Africa is to prevail, it could very well come down to Du Preez.
Steve Hansen revealed this week that he and Heyneke Meyer always share a beer after a Springbok All Black game. The catch? The loser has to bring the beer.
Prediction: This one could go absolutely either way….Boks to squeak it and Hansen to buy!
Argentina v Australia
Australia made heavy weather of defeating a dogged Scottish side last Sunday, but in the end Michael Cheika’s men got through it. It is often said that a week is a long time in rugby and the Wallabies’ Sunday performance was a fine example of that. Last Friday they were hailed as the tournament pace-setters, now no one is quite sure which Australian team will pitch up on Sunday.
One thing that most people are sure of is that if Australia does not give 100% this weekend, they will come short against a highly skilled and motivated Argentinian side. The experience of Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell in the backs will be a huge help to the two-time world champions. Particularly as Cheika is still sweating on David Pocock, Scott Sio and Israel Folau, who are all still under injury clouds.
Many British and Irish pundits have labelled Argentina the “dark horse” of the tournament after their emphatic victory over the Irish last Saturday. Los Pumas have added attacking flare to their traditionally powerful forward play. Loose forward Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and captain Agustín Creevy, together with an exceptional backline containing Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Imhoff, Joaquin Tuculet and Santiago Cordero, make the South Americans a daunting prospect for any side in the world.
Prediction: Tough one to call, but David Pocock will be missing… Pumas to take it!
We hope you’re showing your colours and supporting you’re team as the World Cup heats up. It so happens that our 20th birthday coincides with the tournament, and to celebrate we’re giving one lucky expat a return trip back home from the UK. All you have to do to enter is take a picture showing your support for your team (and country).
Check out the competition page by clicking the banner below:
For more in depth analysis, check out TNT’s coverage of the global showpiece below:
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