New Zealand beats South Africa, advances to Rugby World Cup final


New Zealand advanced to the Rugby World Cup final by beating South Africa 20-18 in an attritional game in wet conditions on Saturday, keeping on track for a first successful defense of the title.

The All Blacks scored both of the semifinal’s tries at Twickenham, through flanker Jerome Kaino in the sixth minute and reserve back Beauden Barrett in the 52nd, and recovered from a 12-7 deficit at halftime.

South Africa’s game plan, based on tough defense and kicking at every opportunity, frustrated New Zealand in the first half but was less effective after the break. The Springboks’ points came from six penalties – five by flyhalf Handre Pollard in the first half and another from his replacement, Pat Lambie.

Flyhalf Dan Carter kicked the rest of New Zealand’s points through two conversions, a penalty and a dropped goal, in a match that stayed tense until the end.

Australia and Argentina meet on Sunday in the second semifinal.

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen doesn’t care who his team meets in the Rugby World Cup final next weekend, his only hope being that the other finalist is hurting.

“I don’t care. I really don’t. I just want them to bash each other to bits tomorrow,” he said.

Rugby Championship winner Australia will start as favorite against Argentina, given it has won two World Cups and has a superior head-to-head record, but the Pumas are hitting top form and using an expansive running game. The winner will advance to the final, the loser into a third-place playoff against South Africa.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said it would be difficult to lift his team emotionally after the letdown against New Zealand, with not a lot really at stake.

“Mentally, it’s very, very tough,” to regroup after losing a semifinal, he said. As for the third-place game, “It does not mean anything to me, it’s like kissing your sister.”

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.