Springboks in the hunt for ‘double’
Mark Wood, the Classic Springboks manager, revealed his side are being spurred on to clinch World Rugby Classic glory by their newly crowned World Cup winning compatriots.
South Africa marched on into the final, where they will meet Argentina, after a 26-7 semi-final success over the Irish Rugby Legends at North Field, National Sports Centre, last night.
Having not won a single match last year, Wood explained that his side's impressive turnaround has been inspired by the exploits and encouragement of the nation's senior side, who overcame England 32-12 to lift the World Cup in Yokohama, Japan, last week.
“Winning the final would mean so much to everyone,” Wood said. “We're desperate to complete a double with the senior team winning the World Cup and us winning here.
“That momentum from the senior team rubbing off on us. They've been sending us some well wishes while we've been here and so we'll be aiming to do it for them. They have shown us how to do it and so now it is our turn.”
Despite drawing on that inspiration, the Springboks will be hampered by finals night being brought forward a day to today, due to fears of adverse weather tomorrow.
However, despite conceding the setback is a concern with Argentina enjoying an extra days rest, Wood refused to use it as an excuse ahead of facing the Classic Pumas.
“We'll have less than a day to prepare and the players may struggle but we'll look forward to it and do what we can,” he added. “Argentina are a very good side and play with a very good structure. They're the defending champions and winning means a lot to them but we'll just go out there and do what we do.
“For a lot of the guys who have retired and are not training any more that lack of rest could be a major issue but we will not use it as an excuse. We'll dig deep and make sure we're as competitive as we can be.”
The Springboks got off to the perfect start as flanker Bian Vermaak raced through on the left wing to score an unconverted try in the very first minute. However, South Africa found themselves reduced to 13 men within the space of three minutes as Nico Breedt was shown a yellow card in the eighteenth minute, swiftly followed by Egon Seconds moments later.
Despite the numerical disadvantage the Springboks held firm to take their slender 5-0 advantage into the interval.
South Africa got off to a flying start in the second, adding another try inside four minutes. A flowing move from left to right eventually resulted in Morgan Newman crashing over in the right corner. The wing also added the extras. That advantage was extended to 19-0 eight minutes later as a probing run down the left by Dries van Schalkwyk saw the ball recycled to Danie Coetzee in the next phase of play to score. Rheinhard Gerber took responsibility with the conversion, sending his effort through the posts.
With four minutes remaining, the Springboks put the game beyond doubt as 38-capped Wynand Olivier picked up possession before beating the final player to score with ease. Newman added the simple extras to take the score to 26-0.
To their credit Irish Rugby Legends refused to lay down and grabbed a consolation try in the final moments with the marauding Brendan O'Connor racing down the left-hand side to score in the corner. Simon Keogh sent the conversion safely between the posts but the score could not take the gloss off of the Springboks' passage into the final.
Meanwhile, in the Plate semi-final USA Classic Eagles caused an upset, overcoming the Classic Lions in a hard fought 17-12 victory.
The Eagles dominated the opening 15 minutes and were rewarded after a period of prolonged pressure with the first try of the match as Eric Deuche broke the Lions defensive line before offloading to Matt Turner to score. Robbie Shaw added the simple conversion.
The Eagles were reduced to 14 men in the 20th minute after Takudzwa Ngwenya received a yellow card for a deliberate pull of the shirt of a Lions player, denying a clear scoring opportunity. The Lions thought they had levelled the scores just four minutes later as Gareth King bundled his way over, however, play was brought back for a knock on in the build up.
To make matters worse for the Lions, Chris Bentley was then stretchered off the field with a suspected broken leg in the 27th minute. Following a long delay in play, the Eagles took their narrow 7-0 advantage into the interval.
Just a minute after the restart, the United States extended their lead to 10-0 through Jonathan Gray's successful penalty attempt. That setback appeared to spur the Lions into life who following a period of mounting pressure finally got on the scoreboard in the 48th minute as a driving maul resulted in Gareth Bowen scoring. Bowen also added the extras to reduce the deficit to three points at 10-7.
However, just three minutes later restored their ten-point advantage as Turei Mara scored a fine individual effort. Shaw again added the conversion to take the score to 17-7 with nine minutes remaining.
In the final minute, the Lions set up a tense finish as Bowen scored his second try. However, there was to be no late drama as the Eagles played out the final moments to secure a surprise victory.