New Zealand continue their quest to become the first nation in history to successfully retain the Rugby World Cup as they face off against fierce rivals South Africa in the first semi-final of the weekend at Twickenham.
Where to watch
South Africa vs New Zealand kicks off at 4pm BST on Saturday 24 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio 5 Live.
With every European challenger now having fallen by the wayside, following gallant efforts from Wales and Scotland and a surprisingly heavy defeat for injury-ravaged Ireland, the maddeningly consistent southern hemisphere nations take centre stage once more as the last four of the 2015 World Cup offers a reprise of the annual Rugby Championship.
As expected, the All Blacks faced little genuine competition during the majority of their dominant Pool C campaign and sauntered through to the quarter-finals off the back of four consecutive victories featuring no fewer than 25 tries and 174 points. Steve Hansen's side were also met with embarrassingly little resistance in their knockout clash with France and successfully exercised the demons of their painful 2007 exit against the same opponents as they crossed the line nine times en-route to a sublime 62-13 rout at the Millennium Stadium.
Hansen has made one solitary change for the meeting with South Africa. Wyatt Crockett is ruled out with a groin injury, so Crusaders loose-head prop Joe Moody is selected ahead of newly promoted replacement Ben Franks. On another night of milestones for Richie McCaw, the hugely experienced skipper will set a new record for World Cup matches as captain at 12. If his team progress to the final, he will equal Jason Leonard's all-time record of 22 tournament appearances.
For South Africa, the utter humiliation involved in their opening defeat to Japan – one which led to strong criticism from minister of sport Fikile Mbalula and led to head coach Heyneke Meyer offering an apology to the nation – appears to have provoked a fierce response and may well have been a blessing in disguise. Since that fateful afternoon in Brighton, the Springboks have been at their brutally physical best and comfortably swept aside the respective challenges of Samoa, Scotland and the United States before a battling performance against Wales that was underpinned by the ferocious carrying of Schalk Burger, along with the reliable boot of fly-half Handre Pollard.
A magnificent offload from Duane Vermeulen to skipper Fourie du Preez eventually secured victory following a thoroughly absorbing encounter that South Africa dominated after the break and eventually displayed the sort of ruthless efficiently for which they have become famous. Meyer has selected an unchanged starting XV for the challenge of the All Blacks, although 38-year-old lock Victor Matfield returns to the bench in place of Pieter-Steph du Toit. Lood de Jager retains his place in the second row after recovering from a foot problem and hooker Bismarck du Plessis will play with strapping on a hand injury.
There are many intriguing battles and sub-plots involved in this eagerly anticipated contest, yet potentially the most decisive involves the contest between talented wing duo Bryan Habana and Julian Savea. Following his hat-trick against France last time out, the latter leads the way with eight tries at the current World Cup and one more score will give him the record for an individual campaign. Habana, meanwhile, is now tied with the legendary Jonah Lomu for most tries in tournament history and is just five short of Daisuke Ohata's overall mark.
South Africa: 15. Le Roux, 14. Pietersen, 13. Kriel, 12. De Allende, 11. Habana, 10. Pollard, 9. Du Preez (c); 1. Mtawawira, 2. B Du Plessis, 3. Malherbe, 4. Etzebeth, 5. De Jager, 6. Louw, 7. Burger, 8. Vermeulen
Replacements: 16. Strauss, 17. Nyakane, 18. J Du Plessis, 19. Matfield, 20. Alberts, 21. Pienaar, 22. Lambie, 23. Serfontein
New Zealand: 15. B Smith, 14. Milner-Skudder, 13. C Smith, 12. Nonu, 11. Savea, 10. Carter, 9. A Smith; 1. Moody, 2. Coles, 3. O Franks, 4. Retallick, 5. Whitelock, 6. Kaino, 7. McCaw (c), 8. Read
Replacements: 16. Mealamu, 17. B Franks, 18. Faumuina, 19. Vito, 20. Cane, 21. Kerr-Barlow, 22. Barrett, 23. Williams
What the coaches say
Heyneke Meyer: "I never thought a year or two back all these youngsters would be playing and all in great form. I am happy with where we are at. We had a bad start to the season, but we have taken heart out of coming through adversity and sticking together. We showed great character under pressure to come back and beat Wales last weekend, but we are going to need more than that to beat the All Blacks.
"This is probably the best team that I think has ever played the game. If you just look at their record, the last four years, after the World Cup. Usually, after the World Cup there is a decline in performance. Steve has been there for eight years as an assistant and most of their coaching staff has gone on and they have just got better after the previous World Cup, which hasn't happened in world rugby."
Steve Hansen: ""[Meyer] has been very, very complimentary. He has just about killed us with kindness. We know they really want to rip our heads off, so we are not taking too much notice of that. He's a cunning wee devil, Heyneke. He has been praising us all week and, while I know he means some of it, I know they're getting ready to rip our heads off.
"If we go lapping up all the praise, then we won't be in the right mental state to play. Moving that to one side, we've always had a good friendship, and it's a bit of a tradition that if you win the game, you buy the other guy a beer. If you lose, it sucks. We've both had our turn to buy, so we will wait and see who buys at the weekend."
The second semi-final clash between Australia and Argentina takes place at the same venue 24 hours later.