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Rugby World Cup | Semi-Finals
Oct 21, 2023 at 8pm UK
South Africa
Snyman (69')

Handre Pollard breaks England hearts as South Africa reach World Cup final

Pollard breaks England hearts as South Africa reach World Cup final
© Reuters
A late Handre Pollard penalty sees South Africa defeat England 16-15 in their Rugby World Cup semi-final to set up a showpiece encounter with New Zealand.

England's dreams of a fifth Rugby World Cup final were crushed in the most excruciating circumstances as South Africa continued the defence of their crown with a 16-15 win at the Stade de France.

Steve Borthwick's inspired side led the below-par holders right up until the 78th minute, where Handre Pollard's emphatic penalty saw the Springboks prevail by a single point, as was the case in their quarter-final battle against France.

A pair of Owen Farrell penalties inside the opening 10 minutes got England off to a dream start at the Stade de France, while South Africa passed up a couple of chances of their own to kick for three and fell to their opponents' superiority at the maul.

Early Springboks frustrations boiled over during a 15th-minute fracas, as Borthwick's defence continued to answer every question presented to them, although Manie Libbok would belatedly fire through the posts to get the champions on the board in the 21st minute thanks to Farrell's transgression.

However, Libbok soon made one mistake too many, and Jacques Nienaber had no room for sentiment, withdrawing the fly-half for Pollard just after the 30-minute mark as South Africa slowly began to get a foothold in the semi-final.

A surfeit of errors began to bedevil both sides, who were ostensibly struggling with the slippery pitch in Saint-Denis, but a steadfast England managed to get to the break with a six-point lead thanks to another two kicks from Farrell.

South Africa's Handre Pollard scores a conversion kick on October 21, 2023© Reuters

As South Africa struggled to get going in the second half, Farrell extended England's lead to nine with a terrific drop goal in the 53rd minute, but South Africa finally clicked into gear to set up an unmissable final 10 minutes with the first try of the night.

A move engineered by three of Nienaber's replacements, Pollard's sensational kick into the 22 preceded Faf de Klerk's pass to RG Snyman from a line-out, and England were powerless to prevent the Munster titan from forcing his way through before Pollard added the extras.

Despite their enviable power in the scrum, South Africa elected to kick a 77th-minute penalty just inside the England half, and Pollard's tremendous effort sailed through the posts to propel South Africa into the lead for the first time in the semi-final.

With only two minutes remaining, there was simply not enough time for England to carve out a final kicking opportunity, and another skirmish broke out towards the end before Borthwick's crestfallen troops gave the Springboks a guard of honour.

A mouthwatering contest with New Zealand for the Webb Ellis Cup now awaits South Africa, while England - who have suffered only their second-ever semi-final exit from the World Cup - will tackle Argentina for the consolation prize of a bronze medal next Friday.

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