The bright lights of the Rugby World Cup have once again proved to be a whole different challenge compared to any other stage in World Rugby. The teams with championship pedigree have progressed over an enthralling quarter-finals weekend in France.
The Springboks are one of those teams. The reigning champs prevailed in a brutal contest against tournament hosts France, facing the might of the Antoine Dupont-led team and their uproarious fans in Paris.
There was just a single point in it after 80 minutes of gruelling action and in the end with that slightest of leads, South Africa backed their defence to finish the job.
Replacement halfback Faf de Klerk kicked the ball back to France in the 79th minute, a striking statement of just how confident the Springboks are in their ability to absorb pressure, even in the dying moments.
Former All Black Sir John Kirwin was impressed by the winning effort.
“You know what you can’t measure that the South African side are very good at? Pressure,” he told Sky Sport.
“They deal with it really, really well. They know it’s coming, we saw it in the last 20 minutes.
“I just think that it’s all planned out. I think they’re meticulous planners and I don’t know how they’re going to play against England because they might come out with another game plan.
“I think their game plan against France was very different to what they play on other occasions, so they’ll have it all planned out.”
The Springboks’ semi-final clash pits the three-time champions against their 2019 Rugby World Cup final opponents, England.
There have been two heated Tests between the two nations since that final, with the record split one each. However, with a poor run of results to end 2022, England parted ways with coach Eddie Jones and the team has been forced to rebuild quickly, limiting expectations for their World Cup campaign.
“Pressure is an amazing thing. Who’s under pressure now? Not Argentina. Not England.
“South Africa and New Zealand are under pressure as the incumbent one and two now. South Africa, incumbent world champions.
“So, England and Argentina go into it with nothing to lose and that makes it a little bit easier for you.”
The South Africans will be full of confidence having downed the hosts who were one of the leading favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in two weeks’ time.
Kirwin said it was a well-executed performance by Jacques Nienaber’s side.
“I think just their balance was way better, I’ve been critical of them in the past, sometimes using the boot too much but I think they got the mix incredibly right.
“The back three were bringing the ball back strong, their kicking game was a little bit shorter. Their first two tries came from errors from France.
“France were good early but South Africa just know how to finish those games off.
“A bit of controversy around the HIA with guys coming on and off, but that’s South Africa, they know how to use the rules and they know how to really put pressure on the opposition. So, you’ve got to say the best team won.”