Liam Williams Ruaidhri O’Connor: ‘That was one of the worst semi-finals ever – Springboks must improve hugely to beat England’

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Liam Williams South Africa 19 Wales 16


Liam Williams South Africa's players applaud the crowd after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final match between Wales and South Africa at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 27, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
South Africa’s players applaud the crowd after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final match between Wales and South Africa at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 27, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

At the end of one of the worst Rugby World Cup semi-finals ever played, South Africa booked their place in a third final.

If they want to beat England next Saturday in Yokohama, they’ll need to be a whole lot better, offering more than this kick-fest that earned them their spot but lost them a whole lot of good-will.

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When the half-time whistle went, a stream of neutrals voted with their feet and headed for the exits after seeing 40 kicks from hand in 40 minutes and no tries.

That rate kept up after half-time, but at least the tension mounted until Handre Pollard delivered the winning kick and the ‘Bok scrum forced a late penalty to snuff the final Welsh effort out.

Wales gave everything and hung in until the bitter end, but the toll of the players they lost told and their chance went with Rhys Patchell’s drop-goal attempt in the seconds before Pollard kicked his winner.

It was a stark contrast to last night’s excitement, when England produced a performance of sublime quality to beat New Zealand. Twenty-five hours later, South Africa joined them with a weird tribute to their 2007 campaign when they bored and box-kicked their way to set up a repeat of that year’s final.

It’s hard to see past England reversing that result.

The weather has played havoc at this tournament and, after typhoons, heavy rain, humidity and everything else it was time for the wind to have its say.

Perhaps with the semi-finals and final being played in the port city of Yokohama, we should have foreseen the gusts having an impact on proceedings and the swirls made box-kicking an attractive option.

So attractive indeed that both teams decided it was their tactic of choice meaning the fans in the stand were turning to the Mexican wave earlier than usual.

Amidst long lulls in the stands there was the odd spurt of action down on the pitch. Wale

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