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Springboks dig deep to tame Lions

Photograph by Akil SimmonsWriggling through: Shane Williams, the Welsh wing, goes on the attack during Lions’ 14-7 defeat to South Africa in the World Rugby Classic at North Field

Mark Wood, the South Africa coach, has praised his side’s battling spirit after holding off a late Lions onslaught to win their World Rugby Classic semi-final 14-7 at the North Field.

The Springboks made a blistering start to last night’s match, scoring after three minutes after Brian Vermaak powered over the line before Reinhard Gerber kicked the conversion.

Six minutes later Delarey du Preez sliced through the Lions defence for South Africa’s second try, with Gerber once again making no mistake, kicking the extra two points.

Lions rallied midway through the half and their pressure eventually paid off when Spencer Brown raced onto a grubber kick from Gareth Bowen to score just moments before the interval.

The defending champions bombarded South Africa’s defence during a spirited second period, but Wood’s side stood their ground and will now face the winners of tonight’s game between New Zealand and Argentina in the Classic final on Saturday.

“The defence builds up character and it showed again today,” Wood said.

“I thought we gave away too many penalties and could have been more disciplined, but other than it’s always a classic game against the Lions who had a lot of people behind them tonight.

“I’m very proud of the boys and we dug deep late on.”

Wood said his team’s early tries gave them a great platform to build their victory on.

“It’s all about momentum and the Lions showed great character to come back from [conceding two early tries],” he said.

“By the end I think the Dark ‘n’ Stormies were killing both teams!”

Allen Martin, the Lions coach, said he was proud of the way his side fought back into the game. “You can’t always win and it’s getting tougher,” he said. “All of the players gave 110 per cent and you can’t ask for anymore.

“South Africa scored a try more than us and they stopped us from getting across the line.”

In the Plate semi-final, two tries from Josh Campbell helped Canada to a 17-0 win over Italy.

Mitch Gudgeon gave the Canadians a perfect start with an early try, setting the tone for the rest of the match, with the waspish Campbell then opening his account after a superb breakaway by Shawn Mercer midway through the half.

Canada continued to dominate after the break with Campbell, a constant thorn in the side for Italy, scoring his second in the 34th minute, with Robin MacDowell kicking the conversion.

“I thought we really brought it together today and have been working hard off the field,” said Campbell, who is making his second appearance at the Classic. “We put together a good consistent game and both offence and defence came together.

“It showed that when the boys trust in each other and work together in good units, we can get a result like we did today.”

Campbell added: “I was pleased with my performance and I was lucky enough to be on the receiving of some of my team-mates’ hard work.

“We’re riding high now and looking forward to Saturday, and hopefully we’ll get a good result.”

Canada will meet the winner of tonight’s match between France and the United States in the Plate final on Saturday.