Paris – South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said he was “really proud” of his team after they came from behind to beat England 16-15 in an “ugly” semi-final at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, meanwhile, paid tribute to the English who defied their critics and the rugby form book with a gutsy no-frills performance that came within a whisker of booking them fifth appearance in a World Cup final.
“England were outstanding on the night, we had to dig deep,” he told reporters. “It could have gone either way.”
The defending champions were facing the exit as they trailed 15-6 after 69 minutes.
But RG Snyman crashed over for a short-range try and Handre Pollard converted before adding a 77th minute penalty to give his side their second successive one-point win – last week they beat France 29-28 in the quarter-finals.
“It’s honestly all the hard work we have put in which came off. It was really ugly but that is what champions are made of,” said Kolisi, who will now have the chance to lead his team to back-to-back World Cup titles.
“It was ugly today like it was last week but we found a way to fight back and get back into the game.
“Well done to the boys. I am really proud of the fight that was showed.”
Nienaber said the Boks would need to study the way England pressured them in readiness for next Saturday’s final against the All Blacks.
“England had a good tactical plan, put us under pressure,” he said.
“We will have to improve in terms of that if New Zealand use the same tactic. It took some time to get to grips with it.
“That is the strength of this team. Even if we don’t play well, we find a way to get a result. It took 70 minutes to get a foothold in the game. They just refuse to give up, they fought to the end. I am very proud of that.”
Owen Farrell kicked four first-half penalties before landing a monster drop goal in the second half to give the English a nine-point lead.
Kolisi said he had “no doubt at all” that Pollard would convert the 77th minute penalty that gave South Africa the win.
“He has done it for us before,” he said.
Pollard, who replaced Manie Libbok after 30 minutes, described the win as “unbelievable” while admitting frustration at the Bok performance.
“We weren’t at our best tonight, especially in that first half,” he said.
“Fair play to England… they put us under pressure in exactly the right areas. But jeez the fight we showed, never giving up, it is what we stand for as a team and as a nation.”
The Leicester fly-half, who was not in the original squad for the World Cup, was delighted with his winning kick.
“It was a big moment but it is what you want as a player on this stage, to have moments like that as a fly-half is what you live for,” he said. “It was fun.”
Follow African Insider on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
For more African news, visit Africaninsider.com