Cup set for fitting finale

Australia and New Zealand deserve to be in the 2015 World Cup final, writes JON CARDINELLI in London.

There was no room for romantic upsets on the penultimate weekend of the tournament. The All Blacks beat the Springboks 20-18 in the first semi-final on Saturday. The Wallabies were ultimately too good for Argentina and won the second play-off 29-15.

The upshot is that the World Cup final will feature the tournament’s two form teams; teams that have set the standard on both on attack and defence over the course of the competition.

The All Blacks have conceded just four tries at this tournament. The Wallabies missed 33 tackles against Argentina, but still kept the Pumas tryless. They have been breached on just five occasions at this competition.

New Zealand won all their group matches to top their pool. They made a powerful statement with a 62-13 win against France in the quarter-final. They then showed their mettle and superior game management skills in the semi-final against the Boks.

While some continue to doubt the Wallabies, the fact remains that they won the Pool of Death. Australia beat hosts England and then Wales on successive weekends. They then edged Scotland 35-34 thanks to a last-minute penalty goal by Bernard Foley.

Both Australia and New Zealand will be chasing a third world title. The Wallabies lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 1991 and 1999. The All Blacks won the first tournament in 1987, and the previous competition in 2011. The All Blacks could become the first side in history to win back-to-back world titles.

Meanwhile, South Africa will face Argentina in the optimistically named bronze final at the Olympic Stadium on Friday. The Boks will be looking to end their campaign on a high, and to avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first South African side to lose three games in a single World Cup campaign.

Argentina will be up for that match. Captain Agustín Creevy said as much in the wake of the Pumas’ defeat to the Wallabies.

Argentina have exceeded expectations by advancing as far as the semi-final stage. A win against the Boks this Friday would round off a relatively successful season. They’ve already beaten the Boks and Ireland this year.

The coming Test could be the last for several South African veterans. Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger and Fourie du Preez are unlikely to represent the Boks beyond this campaign. The team will be looking to give these players a fitting send-off.

The Pumas would do well to keep Bryan Habana in check. The winger has scored 64 Test tries and 15 World Cup tries over the course of his career. One more try, and Habana will become the most prolific try-scorer in tier-one history as well as the sole owner of the record for the most World Cup tries.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli