Handre Pollard broke English hearts as he landed a 49-metre penalty three minutes from time to book South Africa’s place in the World Cup final as they edged England 16-15 at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The Springboks trailed from the second minute when Owen Farrell landed the first of his four penalties but a late surge from the defending champions, which included a try from RG Snyman as well as Pollard’s enormous match-winning kick, saw them into a fourth final where they will meet their old rivals New Zealand.
With England leading 15-6 after dominating and controlling play for the first 70 minutes of the game, South Africa grabbed a lifeline with Snyman’s try.
After kicking a penalty to the corner, Snyman rose to collect the line-out ball and was then on hand when it came back to him to power through three England tacklers and crash over for the try.
Pollard, who had been brought on after just 30 minutes for a misfiring Manie Libbok, made no mistake to reduce the gap to just two points with 10 minutes to play.
Three minutes from time, England were penalised by New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe, who also whistled the Boks’ win last week over France, for collapsing the scrum.
From just in front of halfway Pollard coolly fired the ball between the posts to put the Boks in front for the first time.
Victory takes the holders through to their fourth final where either they or the All Blacks will become the first team to notch up four World Cup wins.
In a repeat of the 2019 final, England appeared to have turned the tables on the Boks with a superb performance in the wet and windy conditions.
England began brightly with Farrell getting his first chance off the tee after just two minutes when lock Franco Mostert was called for preventing the ball coming out of the ruck. From 35 metres Farrell made no mistake.
Eight minutes later, Farrell was again on target, this time after Bok captain Siya Kolisi was penalised in the ruck.
Leading into the game, South African coach Jacques Nienaber had talked about England’s ability to “strangle” teams and that is precisely what they were trying to do here, the high kicks putting South Africa on to the back foot and the quick follow-up ‘offensive’ defence forcing Springbok errors and turnovers.
The Boks finally got on the board from 40 metres through Libbok but his game, more suited to a dry, flat deck, was off key and he was replaced by Pollard.
The 2019 World Cup winner nailed the first penalty chance he had but two up the other end from Farrell meant England turned around with a 12-6 advantage.
South Africa returned to the field for the second half two minutes before the English and 90 seconds later brought on Faf de Klerk for Cobus Reinach, restoring the half-back partnership that won the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019.
Willie Le Roux, another veteran replacement, came close to scoring the first try 11 minutes into the second half. Cheslin Kolbe on the left wing collected a neat cross-kick from Pollard before chipping the ball through for Le Roux to chase. His boot was a touch too heavy, however, and the ball rolled through the dead ball line.
Almost immediately, Farrell slapped them hard with a stunning 48-metre drop goal to stretch the England lead to 15-6. But the South Africans are known for never giving up a lost cause and so Pollard proved.
© Agence France-Presse