Tendai Mtawarira (Getty Images)
Cape Town – The All Blacks reached the 2015 Rugby World Cup final after edging the Springboks 20-18 in a thrilling semi-final at Twickenham in London on Saturday.
It was a nail-biting encounter contested in wet conditions, but two tries from the Kiwis proved the difference in an intensely physical encounter.
Despite spending most of the first half defending their own line, the Springboks led 12-7 at half-time, courtesy of the consistent boot of flyhalf Handre Pollard, who slotted four penalties.
The Boks also went into the break with a one-man advantage as All Black loose forward Jerome Kaino was sent to the sin-bin for cynically kicking the ball away in an off-side position.
However, the All Blacks came out flying in the second stanza and an early drop goal from Dan Carter brought them to within two points.
They continued their assault inside the South African 22m area and the pressure finally told when replacement back Beauden Barrett scored in the corner.
The Boks were also dealt a blow with wing Bryan Habana sent off for 10 minutes for slapping the ball out of All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith’s hands.
Pollard added another penalty to bring the Boks within two, but Carter extended New Zealand’s lead soon afterwards.
A 68th minute penalty from replacement flyhalf Pat Lambie brought the Boks to within two again, but the All Blacks were clinical in the way they closed the game out.
The Boks struggled to exit their own half and it was the All Blacks’ domination of territory and possession which proved the undoing of the South Africans.
New Zealand enjoyed 57% possession and 67% territory – statistics that forced the Boks to make a mammoth 116 tackles.
While they can be happy with their scrummaging, losing four key lineouts proved costly for Fourie du Preez’s men.
The All Blacks deserve plaudits for taking the game to the Boks, and in the end made 398m on attack compared to a meagre 146m from South Africa.
As predicted, the Boks stood up physically, but their lack of invention on attack ultimately again proved their undoing.
The All Blacks will now face the winner of Sunday’s Australia v Argentina semi-final, while South Africa will tackle the loser in the bronze medal match.
Penalties: Handre Pollard (5), Pat Lambie
Tries: Jerome Kaino, Beauden Barrett
Conversions: Dan Carter (2)
Drop goal: Carter
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams