x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Australia set up All Blacks clash after arm wrestle with South Africa

Hosts New Zealand too strong for Argentina as Smit waves an emotional goodbye to the Springboks.

James Horwill, centre, celebrates with Berrick Barnes, left, and Anthony Faingaa after defeating South Africa.
James Horwill, centre, celebrates with Berrick Barnes, left, and Anthony Faingaa after defeating South Africa.

James O'Connor landed a 71st-minute penalty as Australia ralled to beat South Africa 11-9 in an intense Rugby World Cup quarter-final, ending the title defense of an aging Springboks team and setting up a semi-final with host and bitter rivals New Zealand as the Wallabies aim to become the first team to win the title three times.

O'Connor's 30-metre goal retrieved the lead for Australia, who led 8-3 at half time with a try to captain James Horwill but who fell behind under relentless pressure through the second half.

Springboks fly-half Morne Steyn kicked a penalty and a dropped goal to give South Africa a 9-8 lead after 59 minutes, a sniff of victory, before O'Connor rewarded a valiant Wallabies defensive performance with the winning goal.

"It was a huge effort," Horwill said. "We had some real issues there in the second half. I'm really proud of the way the guys fought it, dug in.

"We knew that we had to stick in, our defense would win these big games. We had to trust that."

The match likely ends the careers of many of the Springboks' veterans, including captain John Smit who played 49 minutes in his 110th Test and his 17th straight World Cup match.

"It makes it hurt that much more," Smit, who will now join English side Saracens, said. "A couple of missed opportunities. We did enough to win this game but we just couldn't get there."

In the day's later quarter-final, New Zealand beat Argentina 33-10 in Auckland.

But the All Blacks, already without star playmaker Dan Carter following a tournament-ending groin injury, saw the fly-half's stand-in, Colin Slade, limp off in the first half as full-back Mils Muliaina, following captain Richie McCaw, became only the second player to make 100 Test appearances for New Zealand.

The All Blacks had been overwhelming favourites to win against an Argentina team who have still to record a Test victory over New Zealand.

But the Pumas, who saw flanker Juan Farias Cabelli score the only try of the first half, stayed in sight of what would have been the most stunning World Cup upset of all-time until New Zealand, for whom scrum-half Piri Weepu kicked seven penalties, pulled away in the last quarter.

New Zealand finally scored a try through No 8 Kieran Read 11 minutes from time and lock Brad Thorn added a second late on to set up a mouthwatering clash next Sunday against Australia.