Search icon


24th Oct 2015

5 things we learned as New Zealand advance to yet another final

Kevin Beirne

New Zealand booked their place in their second consecutive Rugby World Cup final with a tight 20-18 win over South Africa.

The Springboks held a 12-7 lead at the half, but the defending champions clawed their way back into it to win their third consecutive World Cup match over South Africa since losing the 1995 final.

Here’s what we learned from the game…

New Zealand are good, but not great

It’s a very harsh thing to say about a team that has made back-to-back World Cup finals, but this New Zealand team are just very good, not great – and the winner of Sunday’s semi-final will know this.

In 2011, they were almost turned over by a useless French team in the final and needed some questionable calls from Craig Joubert (remember him, Scotland?) to see them over the line. They have a 100% record in this tournament – including a record win over France – but there are clear weaknesses in this team.

For the first time in his career, Carter has looked fallible. His kicking from the tee has been poor and almost cost New Zealand the game. Meanwhile, the All Blacks kept a poor South African side in the game throughout with a series of stupid penalties.

Six Nations weather means Six Nations rugby

Much has been made over the southern hemisphere’s dominance after the Rugby Championship recorded an embarrassing whitewash over their Six Nations counterparts last weekend – but perhaps we were a little harsh on the European effort.

Played under the influence of some classic October weather in Twickenham, this semi-final was far less expansive than New Zealand’s drubbing of France in the previous round.

On a dry day, it is easy to criticise the northern hemisphere’s risk-averse, territorial style of play. But the rain saw both teams choose to kick to the opposition corner and wait for them to make a mistake. Only two tries were scored in the game, but it was still thoroughly entertaining.

Old heads lose their cool for South Africa

Bryan Habana has been the most consistent performer for South Africa for the better part of a decade, but today he was a liability.

He was totally lost for Jerome Kaino’s first half try, and immediately followed that up by making an early chase for Dan Carter’s conversion. Carter missed the first attempt but was allowed to retake it. He made it on the second try and Carter kicked the two points – which turned out to be the winning margin.

While those points may seem unnecessarily harsh on the winger, his yellow card in the second half was totally deserved and completely idiotic. With the Springboks down to 14 men, New Zealand turned the screw and built a lead that they never surrendered.

No tries, no chance

If you don’t score tries against New Zealand, you probably won’t win. If you don’t score any tries against New Zealand and let them score two, you definitely won’t win.

The All Blacks gave away seven penalties in their own half, an uncharacteristically high amount for your average New Zealand team but not actually that unusual for this particular one.

It’s important to take your points while you can, but eventually you need a big score. Three-point penalties are nice for keeping the scoreboard ticking over, but the seven-pointers are what give your team the belief that they can beat a team in black.

Set piece issues for both teams

South Africa were the team of two set pieces today. Their scrum was dominant for the opening hour of the game. Their powerful drive put pressure on the New Zealand pack and even won them a pair of penalties. It’s certainly an area that will best tested in the final by either Australia or Argentina.

Their lineout, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. It felt like the All Blacks knew all the South African calls as they stole the ball an astonishing four times.

Had the Springboks been able to take their own lineouts, they may have converted their chances and we would be talking about an unlikely win.