South Africa (12) 18
Penalties: Pollard 5, Lambie
New Zealand (7) 20
Tries: Kaino, Barrett
Conversions: Carter 2
Drop goals: Carter
New Zealand produced a fine second half comeback to continue their march towards becoming the first team to successfully defend their Rugby World Cup crown after overcoming a stubborn South Africa in a bruising battle Twickenham. Jerome Kaino and replacement Beauden Barrett scored tries in either half to send the All Blacks into their fourth final, looking to win the title for the first time on foreign soil.
Handre Pollard kicked five penalties to keep the Springboks, who led 12-7 at half-time, in touch for long periods but relentless pressure from the reigning champions eventually saw them wilt in the latter stages. Dan Carter kicked 10 points as he and Richie McCaw honed in on a fitting end to their international careers.
South Africa had for so long looked like inflicting upon New Zealand a record third defeat at the World Cup with dominance under the high ball and at the breakdown, but despite starting the second half with a man advantage after Kaino's yellow card and five points ahead their lack of possession and territory meant their line was under constant pressure. JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana - who was sin-binned in the second half - were nullified throughout as New Zealand squeezed into their fourth final against either Argentina or Australia with a fine display of game management as they passed the tough test of the tournament.
Though the Kiwis' route to a second consecutive World Cup crown and first on foreign soil had so far been imperious, their credentials faced a stern test in the form of South Africa, one of only two teams possessing a win record against them in the tournament - most famously in 1995 in an era-defining World Cup victory. But what Steve Hansen's side conceded in the head-to-head record, they more than made up for in their form since lifting the World Cup, with just three defeats coming in 52 matches. McCaw and Carter were again likely to be pivotal in the first of two all-southern hemisphere semi-finals, amid the twilight of their respective international careers.
The Springboks - masters of performing the role of the underdog - were hopeful another showing bathed in brawn, which helped them outlast Wales in the quarter-final, would see them produce the latest shock of this remarkable World Cup. Heyneke Meyer's side were unchanged for the last four clash, but Victor Matfield did return to the bench to lend some much-needed experience.
New Zealand's players had been told to expect the most physical encounter of their careers and that prediction rung true in the opening exchanges. Such intensity led to two mistakes, first as Ma'a Nonu missed a tackle on Jesse Kriel as the centre made the first break of the game before Aaron Smith's clearance out on the full eventually led to a South Africa penalty from the subsequent line-out, which Pollard kicked with aplomb.
But that authority enjoyed by the 1995 and 2007 champions was temporarily compromised during a frenetic start. South Africa were caught too narrow defensively from New Zealand's first real attack and McCaw's suspiciously forward looking pass found Kaino, who finished smartly in the corner. Pollard responded with a penalty straight away as both sides laid down markers in the first ten minutes.
South Africa were dominating both under the high ball and at the breakdown, where penalties continued to come their way and Pollard put them back in front mid-way through the half with a third successful kick from the floor. Long periods of possession from the reigning champions followed, however a combination of their opponents' ferociousness in the tackle - though their line-out was being dismantled - saw South Africa retain their lead at the break. The challenge of overturning a half-time deficit was accentuated via Kaino's yellow card for kicking the ball in the ruck, an indiscretion which allowed Pollard to increase the lead to five.
Despite having a numerical disadvantage at the start of the second half, New Zealand continued to enjoy plenty of territory but the dogged South African defence forced Carter into a drop goal, which brought his side to within two points. The try did come from the next attack however as a possession-starved South Africa finally yielded as replacement Barrett went over in the corner.
The problems facing the Springboks were then added to by the sin-binning of Habana. Pollard took advantage of their scrum dominance with a penalty to bite back, but Carter punished a moment of ill-discipline straight from the kick-off to re-establish the five-point lead. Pat Lambie's introduction did little to stifle South Africa's accuracy from the floor as another penalty came their way to set up a grand stand finale.
The relentless Twickenham rain had made conditions impossible to string together attacking phases in the closing minuts and after South Africa butchered a chance from a line-out, New Zealand sensed an opportunity see out the game. The All Blacks' superior game management saw them frustrate their Rugby Championship counterparts and grind out the hardest fought of victories to book their return to Twickenham in a weeks' time.
South Africa: 15. Willie Le Roux, 14. Jp Pietersen, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Flourie Du Preez (c); 1. Tendari Mtawawira, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Francois Louw, 7. Schalk Burger, 8. Duane Vermeulen
Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Jannie Du Plessis, 19. Victor Matfield, 20. Willem Alberts, 21. Ruan Pienaar, 22. Patrick Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein
New Zealand: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Dan Coles, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Kieran Read
Replacements: 16. Kevin Mealamu, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Victor Vito, 20. Sam Cane, 21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Sonny-Bill Williams