The first Rugby World Cup 2015 semi-final had the predicted end if not quite the predicted means of reaching it. New Zealand marched towards the final as the rain came down, but who did the computer leave outside to get soaked and who did it invite in to have a scotch by the fire?
South Africa’s attack – Had the first “oh, hello!” moment of the match as Jesse Kriel tore into space in the first five minutes after Le Roux joined the line. Neither did that again because South Africa reverted to type. It was going to take something special to win this game and throwing it to Burger to run at an impervious black wall was not going to be it, neither was letting De Allende do the same, who for all his powerful running has less handling skills than a horse trying to knit. Forget the tight scoreline, there was no point in the second half where the All Blacks were remotely uncomfortable as the Boks simply ran at them in a ten metre channel in the middle of the field then chipped it aimlessly (repeat ad infinitum to final whistle).
Dane Coles – Someone needs to tell him get off the wing and focus on doing his job.
Lood de Jager – Yes, Jerome Kaino is a big and powerful lad, but that missed tackle for the first try was an absolute shocker and should have been bread and butter stuff for a massive lock, even one with a perturbing toddler’s face.
Conrad Smith – The interesting thing about Smith is that his name is mentioned far more outside of games than in them. When chatting about rugby, everyone will tell you that he is outstanding, but listen for references to him from the commentator and they don’t exactly come thick and fast. None of this should take away from just how good he is and was again in this game. Defended solidly, kicked cleverly on one occasion and was once again the unobtrusive glue that held all of it together.
Fourie du Preez – Given he’s 163 years old, this was some performance. Looked like he was ripped into ribbons by the end but still he tried. Captain’s performance.
Brodie Retallick – Monstrous in the lineout, carried thirty metres and hit it up more times than anyone other than Nonu; the perfect man for this type of game. Or indeed any game, the big, frightening swine.