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Springboks meet England in WC final

October 15, 2007 13:33 IST
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South Africa earned a World Cup final rematch with the England team they demolished in the pool stage when they overcame Argentina 37-13 in their semi-final on Sunday.

Bryan Habana scored two of their four tries to equal Jonah Lomu's 1999 tournament tryscoring record of eight as Argentina's first appearance in the semi-final fell flat with a performance littered with errors.

South Africa are in the final for the first time since they won the trophy on home soil 12 years ago and can probably barely believe that their opponents will be England, whom they thrashed 36-0 in their second pool match.

Coach Jake White predicted a far tougher encounter when the teams run out at the Stade de France next Saturday (1900 GMT) but his manager Zola Yeye was in more ebullient mood.

"What we did to England, 36-0, we will inflict the same punishment on them again," he said.

"Some people say I am overconfident, but we are playing a team we have already beaten."

Few though will disagree with his verdict on Habana. "Bryan is a special player," he said. "He has a killer instinct that few players have."

Argentina will now play France in the third/fourth playoff at the Parc des Princes on Friday (1900 GMT) in a repeat of the tournament opener when they stunned the hosts 17-12 to set the tone for the whole tournament.

On Sunday, however, they were unable to reproduce that form as they cut down on their previously successful kicking game and opted for a more adventurous but high-risk approach.

They gifted Fourie Du Preez an intercept try after seven minutes then conceded two more tries before halftime off turnovers as Habana and Danie Rossouw effectively ended the contest.


South Africa, who matched the Puma pack and were aggressive in the breakdown, led 24-6 at halftime and though Manuel Contepomi briefly had Argentina hoping when he scored a try soon after the re-start, the Springboks were always in control.

Habana finished it off when he intercepted Juan Martin Hernandez to sprint 80 metres and dive under the posts.

Fullback Percy Montgomery did not miss a kick all night, slotting all four conversions and three penalties, to extend his lead at the top of the individual scoring chart.

Felipe Contepomi, who ended the game in the sin bin alongside South African flanker Juan Smith, gave due credit to the victors.

"They are used to this kind of pressure. They have been the best southern hemisphere team in this World Cup," he said.

England spent the day recovering from and basking in the glow of their 14-9 win over France on Saturday.

"If you had asked me five weeks ago I would have had to think deep and hard before I said yes," said coach Brian Ashton when asked he could ever have envisaged such a finale after the pool-stage struggles.

He said that experience had been key on Saturday and that it would not now surprise him if his team became the first to retain the title.

They will probably have to do so without their semi-final tryscorer, however, as Josh Lewsey faces a fight to recover from a hamstring strain.

Hosts France meanwhile were left pondering their defeat and lock Fabien Pelous said it was a scar that would never heal.

"It's not the end of the world but I will feel bitterness about it for the rest of my life," the 33-year-old said.

Sebastien Chabal's memento from the game was a citing for a dangerous tackle on England lock Simon Shaw.

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