Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# slugfest
Gatland's Wales and Rassie's Boks to battle for final spot against England
The second semi-final in Yokohama promises to be a brutally physical affair.

AFTER ENGLAND EMPHATICALLY secured their place in next weekend’s World Cup final with a sublime 19-7 win over New Zealand, Eddies Jones’ side will watch today’s second semi-final with keen interest.

The English are back in their first decider since 2007 but they now wait to learn whether it’s Wales or South Africa who survive after today’s battle in Yokohama [KO 9am Irish time, eir Sport/RTÉ].

Eddie Jones indicated that he’s hoping for a heavy-duty, attritional 3-3 draw that requires extra time to decide Sunday’s semi-final.

japan-rugby-wcup-wales Aaron Favila Warren Gatland at Wales' captain's run on Friday. Aaron Favila

The expectation is that it will be a highly-physical slugfest between the Welsh and the Springboks, with both of them possessing excellent defences that prioritise linespeed under Shaun Edwards and Jacques Nienaber, respectively.

That isn’t to ignore their attacking qualities, with both teams possessing clinical wide men who can turn half-chances into tries.

The Boks have lost the brilliant Cheslin Kolbe to injury but his replacement, Sbu Nkosi, has eight tries in 10 Tests so far, while left wing Makazole Mapimpi is on 13 scores in just 12 Tests.

The Welsh, meanwhile, have the firepower of George North and Josh Adams on the edges, although they too have suffered an injury blow in their back three with fullback Liam Williams’ tournament over.

Again, his replacement has real quality. Leigh Halfpenny has played in 88 Tests for Wales and the Lions and will offer major defensive solidity, as well as a useful place-kicking option.

The Welsh have named outstanding centre Jonathan Davies in their 13 shirt and will hope he comes through the warm-up after a knee injury forced him to miss the quarter-final win over France. Davies’ attacking cutting edge and defensive brilliance are important.

With the inspirational Alun Wyn Jones leading the way, Wales’ pack will be as competitive as ever but the Boks will feel they can get an edge up front, particularly with head coach Rassie Erasmus going for a 6/2 split on his bench again.

Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, and Francois Louw would start for most Test teams, never mind offer massive impact off the bench.

south-africa-v-canada-pool-b-2019-rugby-world-cup-kobe-misaki-stadium Adam Davy RG Snyman is part of a powerful Boks bench. Adam Davy

With Faf de Klerk set to be as influential as ever from scrum-half for the Boks, while opposite number Gareth Davies looks for intercepts, the fortunes of both starting out-halves will be intriguing to follow.

Dan Biggar is a ferocious competitor with a similar defensive appetite to opposite number Handré Pollard, whose lack of creativity is compensated for by the Boks having a playmaker at fullback in Willie le Roux.

Biggar, who has some of the best aerial skills in the game, will be keen to play an intelligent territorial kicking game that keeps the Boks’ powerful ball-carrying and mauling limited to their own half as much as possible.

Erasmus’ men have been on quite the journey since he took over in 2017 and turned their fortunes around, with captain Siya Kolisi understanding exactly what a first World Cup final since the Boks’ 2007 success would mean to South Africa.

“We have many different races in our country and 11 different languages,” said Kolisi. “It is one of the positives of our country, I think it’s really beautiful. That’s why we are called the ‘Rainbow Nation’.

“In this team as well, we have different races, which is really beautiful. It is very important for our country to do well and win matches.

“It just shows that when we decide to work together for one goal or as a team and as a country, we can make anything happen, and achieve all the goals and dreams.

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“That’s why we want to give our best and hopefully play in the final next week. It would be huge for our country, as I’ve seen what it has done for the country before.

south-africa-v-canada-pool-b-2019-rugby-world-cup-kobe-misaki-stadium Adam Davy Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus. Adam Davy

“I’m old enough to remember the 2007 World Cup – I remember what it did for the country then, and I know what it would do now.”

Meanwhile, Gatland is stepping down as Wales boss after this World Cup and he appreciates that reaching a first-ever final would be an epic achievement.

“For us to get to the final of a World Cup, it will be unbelievable given the small playing numbers we have in Wales, the four teams,” said Gatland. “We feel like we continually punch above our weight. 

“The biggest thing I am proud of [during his time in charge] is that we have earned respect from the rest of the world in terms of what we have achieved in the last 12 years. I am not sure it was there before that.

“World rankings, where we were at [10th], what we have achieved in terms of Six Nations and Grand Slams, but respect for what we have done is the biggest thing.”


15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. George North
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Josh Adams
10. Dan Biggar
9. Gareth Davies 

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Tomas Francis
4. Jake Ball 
5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
6. Aaron Wainwright 
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Ross Moriarty 


16. Elliot Dee
17. Rhys Carre
18. Dillon Lewis
19. Adam Beard
20. Aaron Shingler
21. Tomos Williams
22. Rhys Patchell
23. Owen Watkin 

South Africa:

15. Willie le Roux
14. Sbu Nkosi
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Lood de Jager
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Duane Vermeulen


16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Vincent Koch
19. RG Snyman
20. Franco Mostert
21. Francois Louw
22. Herschel Jantjies
23. Francois Steyn

Referee: Jerome Garces [France].

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