Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: 5 Key Takeaways from this Weekend’s RWC Semi-Finals

5 Key Takeaways from this Weekend’s RWC Semi-Finals

Duane Vermuelen, Frans Steyn and Siya Kolisi pose after South Africa beat Wales in the World Cup Semi-Final

We look at 5 key takeaways from this weekend's Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

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Ferocious England Stun New Zealand
There was something primal about the way England went about dismantling the All Blacks. They defended manfully against arguably one of the best backlines world rugby has ever seen, and showed enough on attack to keep Steve Hansen’s men penned into their own half for 62% of the game. Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were arguably England’s best performers. Both wrought havoc at the breakdown and continually smashed the All Blacks backwards in contact. You feel that they’ll need to produce another herculean effort this weekend in the final against the Springboks and their superhuman pack.

Sam Underhill applauds after World Cup Semi-Final against New Zealand
Sam Underhill after England's win against the All Blacks

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Hansen’s Game Plan Backfires
This certainly was a strange performance from the All Blacks. Kicking possession away in and around the opposition 22, dropping Sam Kane – a proven Test number 6 – for Scott Barrett who ordinarily packs down at lock. Apparently, the All Blacks wanted to combat England’s dominance at lineout time. England only ended up losing two of their 20 lineouts throughout the game. Barrett’s halftime hooking – pretty much an admission that the gamble had failed from Hansen – would have no doubt given the English a massive lift coming out of the sheds.

Scott Barrett on the pitch during New Zealand's RWC semi-final against England
Scott Barrett was hooked at half time against England

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Faultless Pollard Peaking at the Right Time
Handre Pollard’s faultless kicking performance off the tee against Wales was nothing short of spectacular. He nailed all four of his kicks at goal, many of them coming from wider angles. Another positive was how he took the ball to the line on the rare occasion that South Africa decided to run it. His switch of angle and subsequent line break in the lead up to Damian de Allende’s try proved decisive as the big South African centre went over to score in the next phase of play.

Handre Pollard kicks a penalty against Wales
Handre Pollard was faultless off the tee against Wales

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Springbok Bench Proves Decisive
While the current crop of Springbok players may not play the prettiest brand of rugby, their ability to grind down opponents through sheer strength is certainly effective. Rassie Erasmus will no doubt employ another six-two split on the bench this weekend. We’ll see an entire tight five and Francois Louw on the pine for the Boks with Herschel Jantjies and Frans Steyn likely to occupy the two backline spots. If the Boks are to lift their third World Cup, the bench will play a key role. The replacement tight five is able to pick up where the starters left off, grinding down the opposition pack.

Louw’s terrier-like work at the breakdown in the last 15 or 20 minutes of the game will also prove vital against England. After all, it was his work over the ball late in the piece against Wales that secured the match-winning penalty.

Frans Louw and RG Snyman embrace after South Africa beat Wales in their World Cup semi-final
Francois Louw and RG Snyman came off the bench to great effect against Wales

Image Copyright Fotosport/David Gibson

Consistency Key to Boks’ Out-of-Hand Kicking Game
The South African kicking game will need to be a bit better against England this weekend. There were far too many occasions where both Faf de Klerk and Pollard kicked aimlessly – almost for the sake of it – especially when South Africa had penalty advantage. Faf still appears to be getting too much height on his kicks at the expense of the required distance. They’ll certainly need to improve on this aspect of the game in the final or George Ford’s laser-accurate kicking out of hand will drive South Africa backwards. It’d also be nice to see the Boks make better use of their advantage this weekend by keeping ball in hand, especially in and around the opposition 22.

Faf de Klerk kicks out of hand against Wales in South Africa's World Cup semi-final win
Faf de Klerk kicks

Image Copyright Fotosport/David Gibson

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