England were stunning winners against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, destroying the title ambitions of the mighty defending champions.

A 19-7 triumph last Saturday sets up Eddie Jones' side for a shot at South Africa in the final, and already England are being tagged as firm favourites.

But the Springboks side that edged past Wales to reach the showpiece match will have plenty to say about the destination of the trophy this weekend.

And history is littered with examples of teams bringing out their best for semi-final matches, only to fall short on the big day.

Here is a look at some of the notable occasions when sides have not saved their best until last.

1987: Rugby World Cup - France stun hosts, surrender to All Blacks

In the days before World Cup semi-finals were automatically played in super stadia, Sydney's modest Concord Oval staged Australia's semi-final against France. A thriller was locked at 24-24 going into the dying moments, with Michael Lynagh having missed kicks to put the game to bed, when a jaw-dropping French attack resulted in Serge Blanco diving in at the left corner for the winning try. France were ecstatic, through to the first World Cup final, but New Zealand were behemoths lying in wait and the Eden Park final was a one-sided affair, the All Blacks powering to a 29-9 victory.

1999: Rugby World Cup - Quelle horreur! France falter at the last again

Jean-Claude Skrela's apparently formidable French swept through the group stage unscathed before dropping 47 points on Argentina and - mon dieu! - demolishing the All Blacks 43-31 in the semi-finals. France scorched back from 24-10 behind to sink the Kiwis in a Twickenham classic, inspired by the brilliant kicking of Christophe Lamaison and the gallivanting Christophe Dominici. Having edged out South Africa a day earlier, the Wallabies had considerably more left in the tank than Les Bleus when it came to the final, Rod Macqueen's men roaring to glory as 35-12 winners on the back of 25 points from the boot of Matt Burke and tries from Ben Tune and Owen Finegan.

2003: Premiership - Twickenham agony for dominant Gloucester

Gloucester looked bankers to be crowned kings of English rugby for the first time, after a stunning 2002-03 regular season saw them finish 15 points clear of distant nearest rivals Wasps at the pinnacle of the Premiership. Nigel Melville's side were far and away the best team over the campaign but then collapsed when it mattered most. The Cherry and Whites went straight into the final, which was the privilege at the time for the table-toppers, with Wasps and third-placed Northampton scuffling it out in a single semi-final for the right to join them. Wasps edged that game and then the side captained by Lawrence Dallaglio defied all logic by thumping Gloucester 39-3 at Twickenham to take the trophy.

2007: Premiership - Cherry and Whites off colour as Tigers pounce

Dean Ryan this time led Gloucester to the top of the Premiership table, albeit only marginally ahead of Leicester, but again there was crushing disappointment around the corner. A seven-try, 50-9 destruction of Saracens in their Kingsholm semi-final pointed to Gloucester being in great shape to gun at glory. At the very least they should have been highly competitive against Leicester in the championship match, so the 44-16 outcome in favour of the Tigers was a baffling outcome. Ryan admitted there was "mismatch.... across the field", while the Guardian memorably described the final as being "like watching field mice fleeing a combine harvester".

2015 Super Rugby: Hurricanes' hopes blown away

Everything was set up for the Hurricanes. They played a supreme regular season, finishing streets ahead of the Super Rugby pack with 14 wins from 16 matches, and after bulldozing the Brumbies 29-9 in the semi-finals they had home advantage at Westpac Stadium in Wellington for the title match. Chris Boyd's team looked nailed on, yet sport is rarely that straightforward. The Highlanders, who had never before won the competition, produced a powerful performance in the final and emerged 21-14 victors, silencing the home support who had showed up for a coronation. As Boyd said: "We were just a little off." And that can be enough in finals, where the switched-on invariably get their reward.

Billy Vunipola struck a defiant tone ahead of England's Rugby World Cup final with South Africa, telling the Springboks to "bring it on".

His words came after Lood de Jager promised the underdogs would "fight fire with fire" in what the towering South African lock expects to be a bruising encounter in Yokohama on Saturday.

Rassie Erasmus' men produced a gritty display to edge out Wales 19-16 in their semi-final, while England claimed a far more eye-catching 19-7 defeat of reigning champions New Zealand.

But the physical battle will be intense this weekend and Vunipola insists Eddie Jones' side are ready for it.

"They have already come out and said they want to fight fire with fire. I guess we return it by saying, 'bring it on'," said the number eight.

"They are very, very big people but then again we have a few big blokes on our team."

Vunipola revealed the bold approach England took in the semi-final inspired him, with Jones' men combining free-flowing rugby with a controlled aggression that rattled the All Blacks.

"It's something that you probably can't measure, but I think the best way to explain it is that it's quite contagious," he said.

"It shows everyone it can be done, so everyone else tries to follow in the slipstreams of [Sam] Underhill, [Tom] Curry, [Maro] Itoje.

"It's very easy when you see it. A lot of people talk about it and it's easy to sit here and say we want to be brutal, but you have to back those words up."

Vunipola faces a tough fight of his own against opposite number Duane Vermeulen, having ended up on the losing side three times against him.

"He's such a big player for them," Vunipola said. "I played against him last summer and he was monumental in terms of getting them those two victories [in a series the Springboks won 2-1].

"Not just myself, but we've got to try and negate the influence of him and everyone else around him."

Rassie Erasmus accepts the criticism Rugby World Cup finalists South Africa have received for their attritional style but insists such an approach has been necessary after a fall from grace.

The Springboks set up a final showdown with England in Yokohama on Saturday courtesy of a battling 19-16 win over Wales, in which Erasmus' side were disciplined and diligent but never daring.

However, their run to the final in Japan comes after a recent history that saw South Africa slide down the world rankings and Erasmus claims his current tactics are a stop-gap while he plans for something bigger.

"If one understands where we have come from – we have been number six, seven and eight in the world – we have got certain challenges and one of them was to redeem ourselves and become a power again in world rugby and try and get to number one and two," he said.

"By doing that you have to have some building blocks in place and we have followed a certain route and play according to the stats and the way the game is being refereed currently and what gives you short-term good results on the scoreboard. 

"We certainly accept that there are some things in our game that we have to improve and we take it on the chin and we will keep on improving that. But we have put ourselves in a position to maybe win the World Cup and we are in the final.

"Yes, we accept the criticism but we are also happy we are in a position to compete in a World Cup final which is ultimately where we want to be."

Erasmus' staunch belief in his approach is reflected in his desire to pick "more or less" the same starting XV for the weekend as he named against Wales, and England can expect to face the same kicking game that ultimately got the better of Warren Gatland's men.

"Our team selection won't be far off from what we've been selecting the last couple of games," he said.

"We'll pretty much go with more or less the same team. We believe that's the way we can get the best out of our team and we believe that's the longevity of playing so many games in a six-day turnaround, rotating forwards and stuff like that. 

"It's a bit of horses for courses but we believe it's our most in-fit, form, best available, best combination team so there's a bit of both.

"You can expect very much the same from us on Saturday."

Jerome Garces will referee the Rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa on Saturday.

He will become the first Frenchman to take charge of a World Cup final, the match marking his 56th Test with the whistle.

Compatriot Romain Poite and New Zealand's Ben O'Keeffe will be his assistant referees, while Kiwi Ben Skeen will serve as TMO.

"I am honoured and delighted to be appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup 2019 final," said Garces ahead of the match in Yokohama.

"It is a dream as a referee, but this is a team sport, and as a team of four, we will be out there to do the best for the teams, the fans, the sport, but also the entire match officials team, selectors and support team, who have worked so hard over the last four years, culminating in Rugby World Cup 2019."

Garces' performance in the Springboks' 19-16 semi-final win over Wales attracted criticism from some pundits, who questioned the award of a couple of penalties in favour of Rassie Erasmus' side.

Billy Vunipola has Rugby World Cup success in his sights but the England number eight is hoping a bit of pre-match coaching from his auntie does not prove a distraction.

England meet South Africa in the final in Yokohama this weekend after producing a stunning display to beat reigning champions New Zealand 19-7.

Eddie Jones' side are favourites to prevail in a match against opponents who narrowly edged out Wales in their semi-final, favouring a kicking game that is in stark contrast to England's free-flowing style.

Vunipola has been a key part of that approach but, despite being on the brink of glory in Japan, he is still getting tips from the family who have travelled to support him and his brother, Mako.

"They can be a distraction as well," said the 26-year-old of his visiting loved ones. "You know, [getting them] tickets, trying to give you pointers on how to play rugby.

"My auntie is always great for that. But their support is very important to us. I guess that's all we need at the moment.

"My auntie is trying to tell me how to play number eight and things to my brother as well. So, as good as it is to have them, they can be a distraction."

On the serious business of wrapping up the title, Vunipola knows England must reproduce the levels they showed from the start against the previously all-conquering All Blacks. 

"We've set out wanting to be the best in the world and we've got to back up what we did last week," he said. "It can't just be a fluke.

"I think the challenge has been laid out by South Africa and you saw them taking Japan apart and Wales.

"The challenge is going to be up front and so we are going to have to be there, both mentally and physically."

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes his country will complete the most impressive Rugby World Cup win of all time if they are able to overcome South Africa in Saturday's final.

Dallaglio was one of the heroes of England's triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign and also starred as a grizzled band of forwards dragged a less-accomplished side to the final four years later, where South Africa were the victors in Paris.

But the manner in which Eddie Jones' men have dispatched opponents of New Zealand and Australia's calibre in the semi and quarter-finals leads Dallaglio to believe the class of 2019 will stand apart if they are able to complete a clean sweep of rugby's southern hemisphere giants.

"If they win the World Cup, which they've got every chance of doing, it will probably be the best World Cup win ever," he told Sky Sports.

"While they might have had it easy in the pool stages, they will have had to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa [to lift the trophy].

"If you can do the Tri Nations and lift the trophy at the end of it, then you deserve to be crowned world champions."

England produced what is likely to be viewed as a generation-defining performance in their semi-final, dominating from the first whistle to win 19-7 and hand the All Blacks their first World Cup defeat for 12 years.

By contrast, South Africa and Wales engaged in a battle of attrition on Sunday in Yokohama.

"The first game was amazing in the sense that you were absolutely captivated by what happened," Dallaglio said.

"The second game was a real kick-fest – 81 kicks [front hand]. It wasn't easy on the eye.

"That's the way it went, it was a bit of an arm-wrestle. South Africa came out on top as we probably thought they would if the game panned out that way."

He added: "England have got to play a really tough opponent. Naturally there's a bit of excitement, everyone's now expecting England to go in there and do what they did against the All Blacks.

"You can't expect that because it doesn't happen like that in rugby. I guess what South Africa have shown in this tournament is they're going to be a really difficult nut to crack. They've only conceded four tries – two of them in the first game against the All Blacks."

Eddie Jones knows South Africa's forward power poses a considerable threat to England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

Both teams reached the showpiece in contrasting fashion last weekend – England dazzling throughout a dominant performance to unseat New Zealand, sending the reigning champions home with a 19-7 triumph.

A day later, South Africa were indebted to a perfect goalkicking performance from fly-half Handre Pollard as they edged Wales 19-16 in a gruelling encounter.

Jones noted the impact of the Springbok forwards introduced from the bench during the second half in Yokohama, hinting he would not be surprised if Rassie Erasmus opted to shuffle his starting XV.

"The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday," he told a news conference on Monday.

"They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of the World Cup you have done a lot of good things right.

"They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half.

"They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations.

"We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas."

England and South Africa have shared two wins apiece over their past four meetings and Jones is an admirer of his opposite number Erasmus.

Pollard and Faf de Klerk's kicking games were dominant features of the Springbok display against Wales but the England boss knows they can vary their approach.

"Rassie is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks," Jones said

"We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15-20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.

"They can play differently but also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don't come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens."

Eddie Jones knows South Africa's forward power poses a considerable threat to England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

Both teams reached the showpiece in contrasting fashion last weekend – England dazzling throughout a dominant performance to unseat New Zealand, sending the reigning champions home with a 19-7 triumph.

A day later, South Africa were indebted to a perfect goalkicking performance from fly-half Handre Pollard as they edged Wales 19-16 in a gruelling encounter.

Jones noted the impact of the Springbok forwards introduced from the bench during the second half in Yokohama, hinting he would not be surprised if Rassie Erasmus opted to shuffle his starting XV.

"The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday," he told a news conference on Monday.

"They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of the World Cup you have done a lot of good things right.

"They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half.

"They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations.

"We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas."

England and South Africa have shared two wins apiece over their past four meetings and Jones is an admirer of his opposite number Erasmus.

Pollard and Faf de Klerk's kicking games were dominant features of the Springbok display against Wales but the England boss knows they can vary their approach.

"Rassie is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks," Jones said

"We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15-20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.

"They can play differently but also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don't come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens."

A smiling Eddie Jones hit back at Warren Gatland in typically mischievous fashion after the outgoing Wales coach appeared to question whether England would "turn up" in the Rugby World Cup final.

England produced a sensational performance on Saturday to dethrone two-time defending champions New Zealand, triumphing 19-7 as the likes of Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill and George Ford excelled.

Jones' side will face South Africa in a repeat of the 2007 final, the Springboks having edged out Wales 19-16 in Sunday's second last-four contest to deny Gatland a triumphant send-off.

Following Wales' loss, Gatland said: "We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final. So it will be interesting to see how England are next week."

When those comments were put to Jones on Monday, the Australian broke into a grin and replied: "Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place play-off."

Jones was able to deliver positive injury updates on Jonny May and skipper Owen Farrell. May was a doubt for the semi-final against the All Blacks due to a hamstring injury and limped off early in the second half, while Farrell relinquished kicking duties to Ford after taking a knock in the opening 40.

"We had a walk through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit," Jones said of May. "He is probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage. Immeasurably better.

"Owen is a bit sore but he will be fine. We have got a few others carrying bumps and bruises because it was a tough game."

One England player who will not feature in Saturday's final is Willi Heinz. The scrum-half suffered a hamstring injury after coming off the bench against New Zealand and Ben Spencer has been called up in his place.

"It is tough for Willi," said Jones. "He has been a great contributor and a very well-liked member of the squad. He was in tears in the dressing room but he has collected himself and now knows he has another role to play for us and he will fulfil that role really well this week.

"Ben has been in and around the squad consistently for the last couple of years so he knows the game, he knows the players. He is a fit guy and just fits in quite readily. We always said to those guys outside the 31 that they need to be ready, and he is ready to go."

Rassie Erasmus believes the hard lessons of defeat South Africa learned against Wales were central to their gruelling Rugby World Cup semi-final triumph.

Handre Pollard's perfect goalkicking performance inspired the Springboks to a tense 19-16 victory on Saturday, ending a run of four consecutive losses to Warren Gatland's men.

Far from preying on his players' minds, Erasmus felt those experiences were part of the reason South Africa got over the line in Yokohama.

"Playing against them four times and knowing that they know how to close out games, we've learned our lessons," he told a post-match news conference.

"Especially the Washington Test match [a 22-20 loss in the United States capital last year], we were ahead in the last few minutes and the way they clawed back and won… we certainly learned some lessons there.

"And the way they won the Six Nations, we certainly see they're a team that strangles the life out of the opposition. We expected exactly that and that's what we received the whole game.

"We had to match that the whole game. It probably wasn't the best spectacle to watch and I guess the boys stuck to their guns and adapted to that."

South Africa's recent record against final opponents England offers greater reasons for optimism. Boks won a three-match home series in 2018 2-1 before slipping to a 12-11 loss at Twickenham last November and also won the 2007 World Cup final 15-6 in Paris.

Nevertheless, Erasmus knows England represent a formidable prospect if they are in the mood they were in as they scythed through New Zealand in this weekend's other semi-final.

"We've played England four times in the last 18 months, it's 2-2," he said.

"We're accustomed with the way they play. They're obviously much better than when we last played them and you could see it the way they dismantled New Zealand.

"We think we're in with a chance. I'm not 100 per cent sure that a World Cup final is going to be won by an expansive game plan with wonderful tries. It might be, I might be wrong. I think we'll go the grind-it-out route."

If that hints the tactical preparations are already largely taken care of, a weight of responsibility remains for whoever is responsible for Erasmus' laundry.

"Every time since I started coaching, when I lose a match, I change my clothing," he chuckled when the superstition surrounding a lucky white shirt that has been omnipresent on the road to the final was brought up.

"Last year I had to change quite a lot of clothing because we lost quite a lot. This year I only had to change it once.

"I'm hoping I can wear this until the end of the final. This is my lucky shirt so far."

Warren Gatland believes South Africa have a very good chance of beating England in the Rugby World Cup final but warned the Springboks might need a more expansive approach to the one that saw off Wales 19-16.

An immaculate goalkicking performance from Handre Pollard saw the Boks edge a war of attrition in Sunday's semi-final to book a showdown with England, who stunned reigning champions New Zealand in somewhat contrasting style on Saturday.

Gatland, who will step down after 12 years in charge of Wales after the third-place match against the All Blacks, had no qualms over South Africa's tactics, where box kicks from Pollard and tenacious scrum-half Faf de Klerk were to the fore.

"They've got the physicality to match England, although I thought England were outstanding against the All Blacks. They've got a very good chance," he told a news conference after Damian de Allende and Josh Adams ran in a try apiece for their respective sides.

"They need to be a bit more expansive in terms of the way they want to play. They had a pretty simple game plan against us: using De Allende in terms of from the scrums and a lot of box-kicking from De Klerk and Pollard as well.

"It was very effective and for them it was about doing everything they could to make the final."

After four consecutive wins against South Africa, Gatland expected another close encounter.

Wales were unable to add the distinction of becoming World Cup finalists in a 2019 where they won the Six Nations Grand Slam and briefly stood as the number one side in the world.

Nevertheless, Gatland rejected the suggestion those exertions had taken a decisive toll.

"With 76 minutes on the clock at 16-16 I thought we had a bit of momentum," he said. "We were in their half and it was a big turnover from a breakdown where we haven't kicked the ball.

"From there they've managed to get a penalty from a lineout drive. For me, I felt the longer the game went on we would get an opportunity.

"Those games against South Africa that we've had in the past five or six years have been very similar. We've been in close, tight encounters that could have gone either way and congratulations to South Africa, they're the ones who came out on top."

When Gatland bows out against the country of his birth on Friday, the weight of a glorious era comprising three Grand Slams will be heavy.

"I'm hurting, obviously disappointed but we've still got an opportunity to make a bit of history," said veteran captain Alun Wyn Jones.

"There's no real consolation but we move on and make the most of the next opportunity to put this red jersey on that means so much."

Gatland added: "We're very disappointed but I'm incredibly proud of what we've achieved in this World Cup and what this group of players have done.

"The dream was [to make the final] my last game, but it's not to be. We need to recover over the next couple of days and enjoy it against the All Blacks."

Wales could not have put any more effort into their display against South Africa, according to Warren Gatland, who took pride in his side's over-achievement at the Rugby World Cup.

Handre Pollard's late penalty settled a tense semi-final in Yokohama on Sunday as the Springboks came out on top 19-16 to progress to the final, where they will face England.

Next Saturday's clash will be a rematch of the 2007 final, which South Africa won 15-6, while Wales will face New Zealand in the bronze match on Friday.

Josh Adams' converted try had put Wales level with under 15 minutes remaining, but the Six Nations champions failed to capitalise on some sustained pressure, with Pollard settling the contest with his fourth successful penalty with four minutes left.

Gatland, though, was adamant his side had little else left to give.

"We gave 100 per cent. It's a tough, physical South Africa team, they won the collisions in terms of the carry and stuff, but I thought we were pretty good at times, but they're big men," Gatland, whose tenure will come to an end after the World Cup, told ITV Sport.

"Our guys didn't take a backwards step and I can only be proud of them for that and like I said we stayed in that arm-wrestle for a long time.

"Great credit to South Africa, they played very well, and we probably gave up too many penalties in our own half and that cost us dearly.

"I'm proud of the fact we never gave up and that got us back into the game and we were in the arm-wrestle, but probably three or four penalties during the game, which would cost any team points...

"That's how close and tight these games are. We're disappointed because we worked hard, and a penalty is the difference between the teams.

"We've punched massively above our weight when you consider the playing numbers in Wales. I'm massively proud of what these guys have achieved – they'll keep playing hard and working hard.

"For a long time, it was pretty close and at 16-16 you're dreaming about the points going the other way but congratulations to South Africa and I'm sure it'll be a great final with England."

Gatland's counterpart Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, believes the Springboks' grit and spirit will ensure they have earned the respect of fans back home and across the world.

"We're in the final of a World Cup. I guess that'll get some respect, but we're only halfway there," he said.

"We play a class England team in the final but we're there, we've got a chance now and we might go all the way, you never know.

"Our group stands together. Nobody cares who gets substituted. We substituted our captain and he takes it on the chin. The guys defended on the try line and those moments count and really help the team gel together and that kind of team spirit can make the nation proud."

Leigh Halfpenny disabused any notion of solidarity with Willie le Roux when he caught his opposite number in mid-air after half an hour of Sunday's attritional Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama.

Wales and South Africa's fullbacks had an abundance of work to get through in swirling conditions as the opening 40 minutes produced 40 kicks from hand.

After the thundering intensity and brilliance of England's Saturday dethroning of New Zealand, this felt like a different sport at times. Opposition 22s were not usually places to set up camp but visit fleetingly.

This clash of two brutally physical packs meant such an encounter was always on the cards, placing huge onus on a pair of fly-halves whose route to a defining match has been nowhere near as smooth as they would have hoped four years ago.

When South Africa beat Wales 23-19 in the 2015 quarter-final at Twickenham in an eminently more watchable affair, a 21-year-old Handre Pollard landed five penalties and a drop goal.

A career on the line

Already named IRB Junior Player of the Year for 2014, Pollard's cool-headedness and nerveless accuracy had him marked out for greatness. However, a shoulder injury sustained playing club rugby in Japan set off a career-threatening chain of events.

He decided to try to nurse the problem through the 2016 Super Rugby season with the Bulls, but that plan was shelved after he suffered a snapped anterior cruciate ligament during training.

Pragmatically, Pollard elected to have surgery to fix his shoulder while incapacitated, only to contract an infection in hospital.

"It got to the point where the doctors raised the subject of amputating my arm, although it wasn't an immediate option," he told The Guardian. "I spent six weeks in hospital pumped full of antibiotics about seven hours a day."

The treatment worked and an absence from the international stage of almost two years ended against New Zealand in North Shore. Pollard was a replacement in a 57-0 mauling at the hands of the All Blacks, yet he was playing with the perspective that things could have been so much worse.

It helps to know a World Cup semi-final is at once much more than a game of rugby but still only a game of rugby. South Africa anticipated a tight contest and bet on Pollard's goal-kicking. He was perfect in a game where they were never behind.

A career forever questioned

The responsibility of leading the catch-up operation fell to Dan Biggar, who kicked 14 points to Pollard's 18 in that Twickenham meeting.

Acclaim has rarely arrived so easily for Biggar as it does for his counterpart, though. His 11-year international career has been a fight for approval against celebrated compatriots, while measuring up uncomfortably to the aesthetic demands of a Welsh 10.

From competing against James Hook and Rhys Priestland during his early years to recent jousts with Gareth Anscombe, Biggar has been a loyal servant to his country, always striving to belong.

When an injury to Halfpenny four years ago thrust kicking duties upon him, many doubted Biggar's chops for the task. His 23 points sent England on the way to heartbreak at their own party.

Anscombe being ruled out of this competition persuaded Wales great JJ Williams to declare his country could not win a World Cup with Biggar at fly-half.

"I've had it my whole career,” Biggar told WalesOnline. "There could be another ex-player calling for someone from Penclawdd to play number 10 next week! It's one of those things."

There was similar defiance in each swipe of the boot that took Wales from 3-0, 6-3 and 9-3 behind to parity early in the second period.

Glory and despair

Unfortunately for Biggar, the Springboks had decided to target him at the gain line and he missed Damian de Allende as the South Africa skipper burst through for a game-breaking try.

It was his last involvement, as Rhys Patchell came on in his place – the words of Williams and others perhaps unfairly pounding in Biggar's ears.

Josh Adams went over to level matters once again after a monumental Wales effort by the South Africa line, but the glory would be Pollard's.

Wales brought a maul to ground right in front of referee Jerome Garces and, after a frivolous drop goal attempt, Pollard took it back to the tee.

Ice cold as usual, he bisected the posts with a certain inevitability. Of course, his presence on such a stage was anything but inevitable when faced with the consuming darkness of that hospital bed.

South Africa battled into the final of the Rugby World Cup as Handre Pollard's pinpoint kicking earned a 19-16 victory over Wales in a semi-final of attrition in Yokohama.

With England coach Eddie Jones watching on from the stands following his side's dominant display against New Zealand, Pollard starred to take the Springboks into their first World Cup final since 2007.

Following an exchange of penalties between Pollard and the equally composed Dan Biggar, a try from Damian de Allende put South Africa in the lead before the hour.

The tournament's leading try-scorer Josh Adams powered over to pull Wales level soon after but, despite a spell of pressure, Warren Gatland's side could not craft another opening.

It was Pollard who settled it, punting a long-range penalty through the uprights after a foul at the maul to send South Africa through to their third World Cup final, with England waiting for a rematch of their showdown 12 years ago.

Siya Kolisi thinks a defeat to New Zealand has worked in South Africa's favour in their pursuit of Rugby World Cup glory in Japan.

The Springboks were beaten by the All Blacks in their first game of the tournament but have responded by winning four in a row to reach the semi-finals.

South Africa will face Wales in Yokohama on Sunday for the right to play England - conquerors of New Zealand - in the final next Saturday.

Captain Kolisi says a 23-13 loss to the two-time defending champions five weeks ago has made South Africa accustomed to playing in must-win games.

"We lost the first game so we have been under pressure since then," said the flanker.

"We have been playing knockout rugby from the beginning but being here for so long has helped us.

"We've got used to the environment, we've adapted quickly and got to know what works for you and what doesn't work for you while you're here. And we have been improving as a team.

"I think our team spirit and understanding of one another as a team and knowing what makes each other tick has been really huge for us."

Kolisi knows what to expect from Wales but says South Africa are confident they can come through the second semi-final if they play to their strengths.

"We know we're facing a tough opposition but all we can do is focus on what we do best and what got us here," said Kolisi.

"We're very excited as a team. We've worked hard this week. We have prepped as much as we can and given them the respect they deserve. Bu the most important thing is that we're effective at what we do – that's our focus."

 

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