After weeks of intensive Rugby action the World Cup has been whittled down to just four contenders, who will compete in the semi finals this weekend. Despite all the early home nations optimism, the last four has a familiar ring to it with a clutch of Southern Hemisphere sides still standing. Argentina are the only real ‘shock’ participants, with New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, all expected to be on the premises, and so it has proved.
Both Australia and New Zealand make considerable appeal to win their respective matches and set up thrilling final between historic rivals. The Wallabies face Argentina, while the All Blacks take on South Africa in two colossal matches which will dominate the sports pages this weekend.
Story of the Quarter Finals
South Africa were the first side to reach the last four after seeing off a spirited Wales side who can rightly feel disappointed not to make it through. Having already finished ahead of England to help knock the hosts out, Wales were hopeful against South Africa despite a poor record against them and a raft of injuries. It was almost an historic triumph for the Welsh too, as they were leading 19-18 with just a few minutes to go, but a late try from South Africa captain Fourie du Preez gave the Springboks an unassailable 23-19 lead. It was tough on Wales, but the classy reverse pass from Duane Vermeulen for the winning try was worthy of winning any match.
Next to qualify were New Zealand, who blew away the French challenge with nine tries in a 62-13 victory which saw Julian Savea land his second World Cup hat-trick. As expected, New Zealand have warmed up as the tournament has gone on, and with early rustiness gone they were simply awesome against the French.
Australia overcame another spirited performance from an underdog in Scotland, who were oh so close to a monumental win before Bernard Foley’s last-ditch penalty 30 seconds from the end gave the Wallabies a 35-34 victory. It was one of the most dramatic games of the World Cup so far, and Scottish fans will still be lamenting the referee’s decision to award Australia that late, controversial penalty.
Finally Argentina caused the shock of the round by scoring a very impressive 43-20 win over Ireland, scoring four tries in the process. Two tries in the opening ten minutes put the Irish on the backfoot, and although they rallied, they couldn’t force their way back into the game. The results set up the first all-Southern Hemisphere semi-finals in the history of the World Cup.
South Africa v New Zealand
First up it’s the All Blacks against the Springboks, and New Zealand -8 +100 with Bet365 looks a decent bet at this stage.
After the absolute drubbing they dished out to France, the All Blacks are in fine fettle and should be too good for South Africa. The Springboks are a very good side, of that there is no doubt, but question marks do remain after a muddling tournament. They were shocked by Japan early on, and although they’ve gone on to beat sides you’d expect them too, they were run awfully close by Wales last week. Let’s not forget that this was an un-fancied Welsh side that had been decimated by injuries too.
There are no such question marks over the All Blacks, who have slain all before them en route to this stage, and who look ominous in the defence of their trophy. They’ve beaten South Africa on four of the last five occasions they’ve met, and another victory will take New Zealand to within one game of retaining their crown.
Argentina v Australia
The side to try and stop them will be one of Argentina and Australia, and it’s the Wallabies who make most appeal at -225 with BoyleSports
Argentina earned the plaudits in their opening game when they were defeated by New Zealand, rightly praised for their intensive Rugby, and they’ve done little wrong since then. They would have been expected to beat minnows, Georgia, Namibia, and Tonga, which they did comfortably, but the result against Ireland was a real eye-opener. They now pit their wits against Australia, but whatever happens they will have made history by qualifying for the semi-finals for only the second time ever.
The Aussies have had an up and down World Cup so far, and despite winning every game, they still occasionally look vulnerable. They won every group game, including wins over England and Wales, but never quite hit the heights that we know they can reach. The quarter final against Scotland was a tough one as the Wallabies were heavy favourites, but they allowed Scotland too many chances and head coach, Michael Cheika, has blamed himself saying that he didn’t prepare his team correctly, and adding that he won’t make the same mistake against Argentina. Indeed, they can’t afford to if they want to progress against this hungry Argentine team, and we expect Australia to come out fully focused and fired up on Sunday.
Australia have beaten Argentina on each of the last five occasions that they’ve met, including a 34-9 win in the 2015 Rugby Championship, and they are capable of doing so again at a good price for the straight victory.
New Zealand -8 to beat South Africa
Saturday 24th October, 16:00 GMT
Australia to beat Argentina
Sunday 25th October, 16:00 GMT
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