Sport Union Rugby World Cup: South Africa through to final against England
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Rugby World Cup: South Africa through to final against England

The Springboks celebrate winning their semi-final against Wales. Photo: AAP
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Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard’s penalty goal four minutes from full-time has sent South Africa into its third Rugby World Cup final with a 19-16 victory over Wales in a last-four dogfight in Japan.

South Africa returns next weekend to Yokohama, bidding for a third World Cup triumph against an England side, which eliminated defending champions New Zealand on Saturday night with a breathtaking performance.

This was the other side of the game, a largely grim arm wrestle on Sunday night, dominated by the boot and appropriately settled by a three-pointer.

Pollard potted all five of his shots at goal, including three other penalties and a conversion, while centre Damian de Allende scored the game’s first try in the 57th minute.

Wales, which departs heartbroken at having lost a third World Cup semi-final, levelled the scores at 16-16 with 15 minutes remaining when winger Josh Adams crossed for his sixth try of the tournament.

South Africa secured its berth in the final when Pollard calmly slotted the ball through from 30 metres out, wide to the left.

You ain’t going nowhere: The Springboks held the Welsh out at the end. Photo: AAP 

An chilly autumn wind had blown away the last remains of a balmy day just after kickoff but that did not deter both sides from going to the skies from the start of the gritty contest.

South Africa’s set piece looked steadier, but Wales was getting past the Springboks’ rush defence on the left wing and looked more likely to cross.

In the absence of any other enterprise, Pollard and Dan Biggar reprised their flyhalf penalty-kicking duel of the 2015 quarter-final with the South African coming out on top, as he did four years ago, to send his side into halftime 9-6 ahead.

The Welsh suffered a double injury blow just before the break, with prop Tomas Francis damaging his shoulder and winger George North pulling up clutching his hamstring.

Biggar stepped up to kick his third penalty to level the scores six minutes into the second half, but the biggest cheer until that point came when Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk squared up to towering Wales lock Jake Ball.

South Africans fans finally had something to cheer approaching the hour mark when Pollard for once chose not to kick and cut through deep into the Welsh 22.

Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Adams commiserate after the end of the semi-final. Photo: AAP

With the referee playing advantage, the ball came out to de Allende, who brushed off two tacklers and reached over to score while grasped by a third.

Wales hit straight back, camping on the South African line, taking a five-metre scrum when awarded a penalty and quickly moving the ball out to the wing for Adams to score.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny split the uprights from out wide to tie the scores again, but South Africa’s forwards did enough to ensure Pollard had his chance to win it.