Rugby World Cup semi-final: New Zealand vs South Africa

Rugby World Cup semi-final: New Zealand vs South Africa

New Zealand and South Africa, two of the biggest rivals in rugby, have vowed a brutally physical encounter when they meet in the first World Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Players from the two sides issued blood-and-guts warnings for the clash before more than 80,000 people at Twickenham.

It will be the first of two all-Southern Hemisphere matches, with Australia to take on Argentina in the second semi-final on Sunday.

"They are going to be desperate, and we've got to match that. It will be brutal because of that," said Richie McCaw, captain of defending champions, the All Blacks.

The 34-year-old McCaw, with 146 Tests to his name, relished the winner-takes-all atmosphere of a World Cup semi-final.

"They are the games I love, and if you get the odd scar from it, that's just part and parcel," he said.

Similar comments came from the South African camp.

"It's a physical game and we pride ourselves on that," said Springbok loose forward Schalk Burger.

"Out-smashing the All Blacks is the only way we can beat the All Blacks. We can't outrun them," commented Bobby Skinstad, who won 42 caps for the Springboks before retiring after the 2007 World Cup.

Rugby riot

Skinstad said the South African team would "love the clash and will want to smash into the All Blacks. More than anything, they'll just be pleased to have a chance to do that."

Hundreds of South African fans gathered in Trafalgar Square on Saturday to go on a jog with Francois Pienaar, who was captain when South Africa won the World Cup in 1995 on the country's return from apartheid exile.

Before the final against New Zealand 20 years ago, Pienaar led his squad through the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton. They went on to beat the All Blacks then.

South Africa and New Zealand are two of the biggest rivals in rugby and their previous 90 internationals have a history of violent confrontation on and off the pitch.

They caused riots when a South African team from its apartheid era toured New Zealand in 1981.

But they are two of the most successful and skilful teams as well and World Cup records could fall in the match.

Springbok wing Bryan Habana needs just one more try to break the overall World Cup record of 15 tries he now shares with retired New Zealand star Jonah Lomu.

Habana and New Zealand rival Julian Savea also share with Lomu the record for the number of tries — eight — in a single World Cup.

The two teams have had vastly different routes to the semi-final.

South Africa lost their first pool game 34-32 to Japan in the biggest shock in World Cup history. They have won every game since but had to come through a tough quarter-final against Wales to reach the last four.

New Zealand had an easy pool in comparison and demolished France 62-13 in their quarter-final with Savea scoring a bulldozing hat-trick.

Of the 90 games between the two played since 1921, New Zealand, the world number one side for the past six years, have won 52.

South Africa have triumphed in 35 and three have been drawn. New Zealand have won four of the past five meetings.

Amidst the historic tensions, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said he will be struggling to keep his normally free-flowing emotions on the touchline in check.

"I've made mistakes as a coach in over-motivating the guys, because everyone wants to do something different against the All Blacks," Meyer said on Thursday.

"We just have to go there, don't put too much emotion on it, just be very, very excited and go and play.

"If you do too much off-field then that's where the players start to wonder."