Five lessons from the World Cup semi-finals, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Springboks must develop their attacking game
When the Boks tried to run the ball out of their 22 in the final play of Saturday's semi-final, you just knew there was no chance they would get to the halfway line, let alone the All Blacks' tryline. Apart from one Jesse Kriel break at the start of the match, the Boks had created nothing on attack and never looked like scoring a try, even when they were playing against 14 men. Handré Pollard's boot kept them in the game, but his five penalties, and one from Pat Lambie, were not enough to secure victory. For the Boks to take their game to the next level, and win matches like this, they need to evolve their attack as Argentina have done. When World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Graham Henry consulted at the Pumas, the first thing he told them was that they could not win by just defending for 80 minutes; they needed to score tries too. That change of mindset has transformed Argentina from a team whose backline posed no attacking threat to one that scored four excellent tries in their quarter-final against Ireland. Let's hope the Bok evolution begins in 2016.
Lost lineouts can prove costly
The Boks won all 12 of their lineouts in the quarter-final against Wales, while stealing two of the opposition's, only for this set piece to malfunction when it could least afford to, in the semi-final against the All Blacks. The Boks lost four lineouts, including three in the first half and one in the 72nd minute when they were trailing 20-18 and inside New Zealand's 22. Victor Matfield, on as a replacement, called for the throw to go to himself, but Sam Whitelock read it like a book to make a critical steal. The All Blacks were able to get back into Bok territory, and stayed there until the final whistle.
The All Blacks have learned to love the drop goal
In the dying stages of their 20-18 defeat to France in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff, the All Blacks pushed hard for a try without success. The thought of getting into France's 22 and then attempting a drop goal never crossed their minds. How times have changed. The All Blacks now know that drop goals can be gold, especially in a tight contest. Trailing 12-7 after 45 minutes of Saturday's semi-final, and down to 14 men, Dan Carter slotted a superb left-footed 30m drop goal to earn his side three vital points. Carter has reportedly been working hard on this aspect of his game during World Cup training sessions and it paid off big time at Twickenham.
A semi-final requires more head, less heart
Argentina got to the last four by playing an expansive game, so it made sense for them to stick with that approach for the match against the Wallabies on Sunday. However, the emotional Pumas would pay the price for their high-risk rugby in the first 10 minutes when they twice tried to run the ball from inside their half. First, Nicolás Sánchez's inside pass was intercepted by Rob Simmons, who raced away for the opening try. Then, Santiago Cordero took a mark when collecting an Australian kick inside his 22, tried to take a quick tap from the free kick and knocked on. From the scrum, Adam Ashley-Cooper went over in the right-hand corner to make it 14-3. To win the semi-final, you felt the Pumas needed to start well and put the Wallabies under scoreboard pressure, but a lack of cool heads early on meant they were the ones who had to play catch-up rugby.
The TMO should only alert the referee to clear and obvious acts of foul play
Both TMOs for the World Cup semi-finals made controversial calls that may have influenced the outcome. In the second half of Saturday's match, Australian George Ayoub alerted referee Jérôme Garcès to a 'neck roll' by Victor Matfield that resulted in a kickable Springbok penalty being reversed. And in the first half of Sunday's match, New Zealander Ben Skeen alerted Wayne Barnes to a 'dangerous' tackle by Tomás Lavanini on Israel Folau. After initially saying that he was inclined to give the Pumas lock ‘the benefit of the doubt’, the referee changed his mind after watching the slow-motion replays and agreed with the TMO that no arms had been used in the tackle. Lavanini was yellow-carded and the Wallabies scored their third try while he was off. Lavanini did, however, use his right arm when attempting to tackle Folau around the legs, so at the most, it should have just been a penalty. Barnes should have stuck with his initial impression of the incident instead of allowing himself to be influenced by the TMO and slow-motion replays, which made the tackle look a lot worse than it actually was. And as for Ayoub, well, he can't seem to get through a game without inserting himself into it. The decision to penalise Matfield was harsh and it cost the Boks three points in a game they would lose by two.
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