The Southern Hemisphere has reigned supreme at the 2015 Rugby World Cup as all four Rugby Championship nations have won through to this weekend’s semi-finals.
While both New Zealand and South Africa were both widely expected to make the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, plenty of question marks surrounded Australia’s ability to survive the ‘Group of Death’ and Argentina’s chances of mixing it with Six Nations heavyweights.
Having all more than earned their positions in the final four, two absolute blockbusters are set to be played in England this weekend to decide who will face-off in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham on Sunday week.
The Rugby World Cup semi-final action gets underway early Sunday morning Australian time when the All Blacks meet the Springboks, while the Wallabies will look to make their way into the final against Los Pumas early Monday morning.
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New Zealand vs South Africa
Before a match was even played at the Rugby World Cup it was widely expected the All Blacks would dominate on their way to the final, and they enter their semi-final with the Springboks undefeated.
New Zealand were definitely underdone through the early stages of their campaign, but were also barely tested by any of their Pool opponents other than a hard-fought contest with the second-placed Argentina.
Having been sensationally knocked out of the 2007 tournament by France before being pushed to the limit in the 2011 final by the French, plenty of interest surrounded New Zealand’s match against Le Bleu when the two were drawn together in last weekend’s quarterfinal.
The Kiwi media had absolutely torn their nations’ heroes apart in the weeks leading up to their quarterfinal, and Sir Graham Henry’s men clearly had a point to prove when delivering the French and demoralising 62-13 defeat; more than stamping themselves as the team to beat.
South Africa appeared absolutely no chance of winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup when beaten by Japan in their campaign opener, but have since rallied to produce plenty of first class rugby on their way to the semi-finals.
Barely troubled in the remainder of their Pool matches, the Springboks drew Wales in the quarterfinals who were full of confidence following an impressive win over host nation England and a gritty loss to the Wallabies.
Pushed to the limit by the mobile Welsh pack and slick backline, the Springboks fought hard to post a 23-19 win and earn their way to another appearance in the final four.
New Zealand and South Africa have produced many memorable matches through recent seasons but have only met once in 2015 so-far; a typically tough 27-20 encounter in Johannesburg the fell in favour of the All Blacks.
Boasting two of the world’s best backlines, this fixture will undoubtedly be won in the forwards and will fall the way of the team that can dominate the scrum and the line-out.
New Zealand’s performance in obliterating the French last weekend was just too good to look past and they look well on their way to another Rugby World Cup final.
Tip: New Zealand to Beat South Africa by 11-20 points at $3.25
Australia vs Argentina
Australia’s chances of success at the Rugby World Cup appeared a momnumental task when drawn in a group with England and Wales in a tournament held in England and Wales, but the Wallabies displayed plenty of skill, tenacity and class to silence their critics and top the Pool of Death undefeated.
Beginning their campaign with a tough win over the ever-dangerous Fiji, Australia were not troubled by Uruguay but had clearly taken plenty of benefit from the run when ending England’s campaign with arguably their most impressive performance at the Rugby World Cup.
Producing another strong team effort to see off a brave Wales, the Wallabies entered the quarterfinals at the shortest price to progress further after drawing Scotland.
Scotland had put in a number of brave performance of their own to progress from their pool second behind South Africa, but were given little hope of overcoming the rampant Wallabies.
In what was perhaps a crucial wake-up call for Michael Cheika’s men however, the Brave Hearts came within minutes of pulling off another huge upset at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but were denied a position in the final four when Bernard Foley converted a late, albeit controversial penalty.
Australia will welcome the return of number 8 and tournament standout David Pocock, as well as fullback Israel Folau for their semi-final with Los Pumas this weekend.
Argentinian rugby has come on in leaps and bounds since their admission to the Southern Hemisphere’s premier international tournament, and that has undoubtedly culminated in their berth in the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
Coach Daniel Hourcade was criticised for sacrificing Argentina’s chances in the Rugby Championship with a view towards the World Cup, but that decision has already more than paid off in Argentina’s charge to the final four.
Testing New Zealand in their first pool match before comfortably seeing off their other group opponents, Argentina were not expected to progress any further after drawing Six Nations champions Ireland in the quarterfinals, but the former minnows produced arguably their best every performance to deliver the Shamrocks a 43-20 defeat.
Argentina cannot be written off in this fixture and have stamped themselves as a serious Rugby nation; rising to a nation-best fourth in the world rankings following their win over Ireland.
Australia deserve to start this match favourites but simply cannot allow Argentina to get the upper hand early. Los Pumas may have put all of their efforts into beating Ireland last weekend and if that is the case, the Wallabies are capable of winning comfortably.
Tip: Australia to beat Argentina by 11-20 points at $3.50