Saturday afternoon sees New Zealand and South Africa go head to head in the first semi-final of the Rugby World Cup with a place in the final on the line. New Zealand have won 10 out of the last 12 matches against South Africa and go into Saturday’s match as odds on favourites after last weekend’s demolition of France in the quarter-finals. However, two-time World Cup winners South Africa, who have found form after defeat in their opening tournament match against Japan, have beaten New Zealand in two of their three previous World Cup meetings.
New Zealand have made one enforced change to their side for Saturday’s semi-final, with Joe Moody replacing the injured Wyatt Crockett at prop. Moody was only called up into the squad to replace the injured Tony Woodcock and now finds himself with a semi-final starting point. Winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, who was replaced at half-time in the quarter-final victory over France, has recovered from a shoulder injury and retains his place out wide. Richie McCaw is set to captain the side for a record-breaking 12th time in the tournament as the All Blacks look to make it to their second consecutive final, as they try to become the first side to retain the Rugby World Cup.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has named an unchanged starting side for Saturday’s semi-final, the first time since 2007 that South Africa have not changed their starting side between successive World Cup matches. Lock Lood de Jager and hooker Bismarck du Plessis have both recovered from foot and hand injuries respectively, sustained in South Africa’s quarter-final victory over Wales. South Africa’s starting side has over 700 caps as Meyer looks to tried and trusted players and combinations. Eight of Saturday’s squad have World Cup winning experience from 2007 with JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar all having featured in the 2007 final.
A win for New Zealand in Saturday’s semi-final would be their 13th consecutive victory in the tournament – the longest winning run ever recorded in the World Cup. A win for South Africa however, would see them become the first side to have beaten New Zealand three times in the competition.
New Zealand are the 1.29 (2/7) favourites with South Africa 4 (3/1) and the draw 29 (28/1). The rugby tip for Saturday’s semi-final is New Zealand on the handicap giving up an 8 point start (-8) at 2 (EVS).
By: Scott McGlynn