S. Africa faces stern test in All Blacks tie
SOUTH Africa's tense 23-19 victory over Wales on Saturday has set up a Rugby World Cup semi-final against a rampant New Zealand, but it is the kind of daunting fixture that coach Heyneke Meyer hopes will bring out the best in his side.
When the tournament draw was made three years ago, the teams always appeared set for a last-four showdown, though the Springboks have failed to look fully convincing on their way to this stage of the competition.
After his team defeated the All Blacks in Johannesburg during the Rugby Championship last year, a jubilant Meyer felt it was a victory that gave them the belief they could force a repeat at the World Cup.
However, it also served as a rare success for the Boks against their great Southern Hemisphere rivals, that has seen them manage just two wins in their last 12 meetings.
The All Blacks, so devastating in their 62-13 rout of France in their quarter-final, are an open book to the Boks but knowing what is coming and how to deal with it are two different things entirely.
"I hope people write us off again, that seems to work," Meyer told reporters after the Wales victory.
"We have said from day one that if you want to win the World Cup, you have to be able to beat every other team."
Despite a roller-coaster tournament that included a shock 32-34 loss to Japan in their opening match and a giant scare in the quarter-finals against Wales, Meyer has kept faith that his side can go on and lift the World Cup trophy for a third time.
"We believe only a (tournament) win is good enough. There's no reason why we can't, but obviously it's not going to be easy," he said.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said he "can't wait" to meet South Africa.
But he warned: "Unless we bring the same intensity and the same edge that we had this week to the next contest then our opponents will take advantage. And even if we do, it may not be good enough."
Meanwhile, French fans jeered coach Philippe Saint-Andre after his last match in charge on Saturday ended in the record-breaking World Cup hammering.
"To be honest I prefer to be applauded than whistled," Saint-Andre said. But when asked how much of the fault was his, he added: "I must take a lot of it. There is no problem there. I have had a lot of blows over the last four years."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE