World Cup semifinals preview - by Sean Fitzpatrick
Another amazing weekend of World Cup rugby and ultimately we have got the four best teams in the semi-finals, though you have to feel for Scotland, doing so well against the odds, against a very good Australia team.
Although it was a nail-bitingly close result against Scotland, I don’t think that it raises questions about Australia’s ability. We should not forget that the pool games against England and Wales were both matches with huge intensity. So maybe there was some fatigue against Scotland. Or maybe they were over-confident.
That will not be the case now. I am sure they will be up and prepared for their semi-final on Sunday, though if they are without No. 8 David Pocock, prop Scott Sio and full-back Israel Folau, who have injuries, it is going to make it a lot harder for them against a very good Argentina side.
Argentina look comfortable with the ball in their hands, they have a very good scrum, they are tactically aware and they do not look overawed. You can see how much they have improved from playing in the Rugby Championship against the three best teams in the world over the last few years. Now, as well, they have a Super Rugby team in Buenos Aires. And traditionally they do well in World Cups.
Argentina definitely have a chance to win, but if you were a betting man you would have to put your money on Australia. But it is going to be very close.
In fact I think both semi-finals will be very close. If Argentina v Australia is fascinating, then New Zealand v South Africa is massive.
The All Blacks performance against France was outstanding, They have obviously done immense amounts of work on the training ground and it came off.
This match is going to be very different. Playing South Africa at any time is a huge match. They know each other so well. The All Blacks are playing well, South Africa are playing well. They respect each other hugely. It could be decided by a refereeing decision, a dropped ball, a missed kick.
South Africa are strong and will compete physically and now they have added younger players such as Lood de Jager and centres Jesse Kriel and Damian De Allende. They may have lost Jean de Villiers, but Fourie du Preez is proving an excellent captain instead.
It’s going to be a dogfight, but I think we will see tries. Both sides will want to play rugby and you are going to have to score tries if you want to beat the All Blacks, so I expect South Africa to take them on.
Where will the match be won and lost?
Rugby is a game of 23 players now, not just 15, and the New Zealand 23 has really impressed me. The way they are able to put players on, with 20 minutes to go, who can change the game and crank up the intensity is awesome.
Players like Beauden Barrett and Sonny Bill Williams have already shown they can do this. I am not sure South Africa have so many game-changers, and that could be the difference.
I would like to finish with a few comments about Craig Joubert, the referee in the Australia v Scotland match. People make mistakes. Unfortunately this was a crucial mistake. He is not only a world class referee, but he is a good guy as well.
What we should be talking about now is how to make new technology work better. He should have been able to call for the video replay, but he was not able to. The rules did not allow him to check if it was a knock-on. And he should be able to. Rather than criticise the man, rugby should be saying we should give the referee all the support he needs to do the job properly.