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There will be no Northern Hemisphere final. Twenty-four hours after Yokohama served up one of the all-time great knockout matches, South Africa and Wales produced something more commonly seen in a gruelling kick-sodden slow-burner. In the end, it would come down to who could keep their nerve, and after 80 pain-staking long minutes, it was Handre Pollard and the Springboks who emerged triumphant.
South Africa will return here next Saturday to face England in a repeat of the 2007 World Cup final, while for Wales the journey is agonisingly not over yet. They will face a New Zealand team that will be determined to make up for the failings of Saturday night, and a long night could be in store for Warren Gatland’s farewell in Friday’s bronze final.
South Africa have the boot of Pollard to thank for their third World Cup final appearance, with the fly-half kicking 14 of their points on top of Damian de Allende’s well-taken try. Wales were keeping up with the African side thanks to Josh Adams’s sixth try of the campaign – putting himself out in front in the try-scoring charts – while Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny added 11 points combined from the tee, but Pollard’s final penalty four minutes from time proved the final nail in Wales’s World Cup coffin.
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As with 2011, Wales fell agonisingly short of a first World Cup final appearance, and it is scarcely believable that in two semi-final appearances in eight years, they have lost by a combined four points. But the drama of this finish doesn’t quite tell the full story of the game.
A kick for every minute. That’s what the two teams managed to cough up in arguably the most dire 40 minutes of the entire World Cup. At one stage approaching the half-hour mark, South Africa had managed to kick the ball more times than they had passed it – a rather staggering stat when the aim of the game is considered.
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