Sports writer Aiman Fariz Zaqwan Bin Akmal Hizam discusses rugby semifinal result.
The last eight nations remaining in the Rugby World Cup battled in the knockout stages over the last two weekends for World Cup glory.
The first match of the quarterfinals saw Argentina advancing to its only third appearance in the semi finals after defeating Wales 29-17. The loss was Wales’ first ever loss in this year’s World Cup after winning all of its group matches to top Group C.
Another match saw New Zealand’s mighty All Blacks win 30-24 against Ireland. This defeat marked Ireland’s fourth consecutive exit from the World Cup quarter finals since 2011, sparking discussions among fans about a persistent “quarterfinal curse.” It was also Irish fly-half legend Johnny Sexton’s last international appearance with the team.
“You’ve got to work hard for fairytale endings, we didn’t get it and that’s just life,” a tearful Sexton said in a TV interview.
England faced Fiji in the next matchup, with the team clearly holding the favor of the crowd. This marked Fiji’s third-ever appearance in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, with its last advancement beyond the group stages dating back to 2007, which also happened when France hosted the tournament. In its quest to reach its first-ever semifinal, Fiji put up a spirited challenge, but England secured a hard-fought 30-24 victory, earning its place in the semifinals.
The last quarter final clash saw France’s Les Bleus host the defending champions, South Africa’s Springboks. The Springboks triumphed in a thrilling encounter, edging past Les Bleus with a narrow 29-28 victory in front of the home crowd. With this win, South Africa advanced to the semi final and continued its journey to defend its World Cup title.
These results triggered significant shifts in the World Rugby rankings. Formerly top-ranked Ireland dropped to the third spot, while South Africa’s Springboks reclaimed the number one position. France slid to fourth place, and New Zealand climbed two spots to claim the second position in the rankings.
In the first semi-final match, Argentina’s Las Pumas squared off against New Zealand. Argentina quickly seized the lead in the 4th minute with a successful penalty kick courtesy of Emiliano Boffelli, granting it an early 3-0 advantage in the first half. But New Zealand’s offensive prowess proved too hot to handle for the Argentines. The All Blacks put on an exceptional performance, scoring seven tries, which propelled it to a resounding 44-6 victory. The win sends the team marching to its fifth Rugby World Cup final.
Another semifinal fixture saw England take on South Africa. The last time both sides met was in the final of Japan 2019, where South Africa won 32-12. England came with a mission to seek redemption and find a slot in the final. Meanwhile, South Africa hoped for a win to continue its journey to defend its World Cup title.
England opened the score sheet with Owen Farrell’s successful penalty kick just two minutes into the first half. He added three more successful kicks, while South Africa’s Mannie Libbok and Handrè Pollard each converted a penalty kick. At halftime, England led the Springboks 12-6.
Owen Farrell struck again just 12 minutes into the second half as he converted a long drop goal attempt from the center, adding three more points to England’s tally. However, South Africa struck back with RG Synman’s try in the 68th minute. Pollard’s successful conversion kick following the try narrowed the points margin to 15-13. In the 77th minute, with just three minutes left to salvage its World Cup dream, South Africa received a 49-meter penalty kick from the center. Pollard remained composed and successfully converted the shot, propelling the Springboks to a 15-16 lead. The score held until the final whistle, and South Africa continued its journey to defend its World Cup title.
With yet another narrow 1-point margin victory, South Africa will advance to the grand final, where it will face New Zealand. This marks New Zealand’s fifth appearance in the Rugby World Cup final. In their last four final appearances, they have secured victory in three instances (Australia-New Zealand 1987, New Zealand 2011, England 2015). For South Africa, this will be its fourth appearance in the grand final of the Rugby World Cup, having won all three of its previous RWC finals (South Africa 1995, France 2007, Japan 2019).
The two teams previously met in a RWC final back in South Africa 1995, where the host nation claimed a 15-12 victory, marking the only Rugby World Cup final that New Zealand has lost. Both nations have been prominent forces in World Rugby, each boasting three World Cup titles. Fans worldwide eagerly anticipate the upcoming match scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28 as they await to see which country will lift its fourth World Cup trophy.