Friday night will see South Africa take on Argentina in a game neither side particularly wanted to be involved in. Both sides put in competent performances in the semi-finals but were beaten by better teams.
With the World Cup fast approaching its close, make sure you don’t miss out on your second to last chance to make some money off of the showpiece event.
To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 7/20
South Africa (-7.5) 9/10
Argentina (+ 7.5) 9/10
To Win The Bronze Medal Final
South Africa 3/10
A question that is doing the rounds in pubs and sports media associations across South Africa this week is ‘did the Springboks show the All Blacks too much respect last Saturday?’ It’s a valid question, especially when you take a look at the first five minutes of the game. The Boks were trying to move the ball around and looked dangerous on attack - there was one moment, in particular, where Handre Pollard put Damian de Allende into a slight gap. The All Blacks managed to close the Western Province centre down but not before he had gained a few metres. That was the moment where I really thought we had the All Blacks' number, It wasn’t the angled run or the well-timed pass that got me excited, it was seeing Ma’a Nonu desperately trying to call defenders across to the blindside. The vastly experienced centre looked a bit panicky and he wasn’t the only Kiwi wearing that expression.
You would have expected the South Africans to have picked up on this and have continued to attack. This wasn’t the case however, and although their conservative game plan kept them in the hunt it was never going to be enough to see them past the All Blacks.
While a good portion of the South African public has decided to lay the blame for the loss at Victor Matfield’s feet, the veteran lock can’t be signalled out as the root cause. Yes, his neck roll was stupid, but did it change the outcome? I honestly don’t think it did. As soon as the South Africans went back into their shells they were never going to win this one. The final score line may have been tight, but the All Blacks knew they had the game sewn up long before the final whistle.
Heynecke Meyer and his charges now have to face the ignominy of a World Cup third and fourth place playoff. Meyer has opted to name a full-strength side for Friday evening's game. There are only two changes to the side who did duty against the All Blacks last weekend. Ruan Pienaar comes in for the injured Fourie du Preez while Victor Matfield returns to the run-on 15 for Lood de Jager who drops to the bench.
The final may have proved a bridge too far, but the Argentines will still feel like they have won the cup. No one truly expected Hourcade’s men to put in the performances they have at the tournament. While they weren’t total no-hopers, they wouldn’t have cropped up on many people's picks for the final four. Their victory over Ireland was one of the finest displays seen at this year’s World Cup, and while they couldn’t overcome the Australians this past Sunday they did give Michael Cheika’s side a nervy sixty minutes.
While the South Africans probably want to get on the first flight out of London after losing to the All Blacks, the Argentines will be relishing the opportunity to play another game of rugby.
It will be interesting to see if Hourcade gives some of his squad players a run-out or if he goes all out in a bid to inflict another defeat on the South Africans for the second time this year.
The Stats That Matter
These games are usually open-ended affairs, which will suit the Argentinean style of play more than the South Africans. While they’re not as frantic as say a Super Rugby game, they do usually end up with score lines in excess of forty points. Argentina’s only previous third and fourth playoff game was at the 2007 tournament, where they beat tournament hosts France by 34 points to 10. Like their opponents, the South Africans have also only been involved in a solitary third and fourth place play-off match. The game came at the 1999 tournament and saw the Boks beat the All Blacks by 22 points to 18.
Verdict: Argentina To Win (80 Mins) 23/10
With the South Africans likely to be more focused on getting out of England than on winning the game, I’m backing Argentina to secure third spot at the 2015 World Cup.