The third-place playoff is often seen as a poisoned chalice at the end of tournament disappointment. Tonight at the Rugby World Cup, South Africa and Argentina proved that it meant something.
The Springboks secured the bronze medal with a 24-13 victory, after the two beaten semi-finalists battered and bruised each other during a hard-fought curtain-raiser to tomorrow’s final.
Argentina’s Tomas Cubelli was sent to the sin-bin after just five minutes at London’s Olympic Stadium, and South Africa immediately capitalised as JP Pietersen touched down within 90 seconds.
Handre Pollard added 11 further points in the first half – becoming the tournament’s highest scorer in the process – as the two-time champions established a comfortable 16-0 advantage at the break.
The Pumas showed their determination in the second period to have most of the possession, but could only score through two Nicolas Sanchez penalties while Eben Etzebeth added a second Springbok try.
South Africa’s cushion was healthy enough for them to give legends Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana, who could not surpass Jonah Lomu’s all-time try record, World Cup sendoffs.
Argentina marked the end of what has been another excellent tournament for them – the second time they have reached the last four in three editions – with Juan Pablo Orlandi’s last-minute consolation try.
Attention now turns to the showdown between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday. Will the All Blacks defend their title, or can Australia cause a shock against their great rivals at Twickenham?
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