The sport marks its 20th anniversary of turning professional. But how far has it really progressed?
New Zealand ground their way into the Rugby World Cup final for a record fourth time when they proved too strong, too dangerous and ultimately too streetwise for South Africa in a predictably tense 20-18 victory.
Tries by Jerome Kaino and Beauden Barrett early in each half were a fair representation of the All Blacks’ superior commitment to attack and they deservedly advanced to face Argentina or Australia in the final back at Twickenham next Saturday.
“We did it the hard way today. It was always going to be that way but we’ve got a crack at it next week,” said New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who now has the chance to become the first man to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup twice.
“We’ve been saying they would bring everything. There were no surprises and we had to dig deep to get the result.”
South Africa led 12-7 at halftime through the goal-kicking of Handre Pollard but spent most of the half defending.
Though they offered precious little in attack all match and kicked badly out of hand the Springboks somehow clawed their way back to within two points with more penalties to set up a nail-biting last 10 minutes.
New Zealand, however, showed all their vast experience to run down the clock and give themselves the chance to become the first country to retain the title.
“We believed we were good enough to beat them but we just weren’t,” said South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer. “We wanted to make our country proud and we didn’t”