South Africa beat Argentina to take third place at rugby World Cup
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Two time champions South Africa went to the rugby World Cup looking for ultimate glory. But on the eve of the final at Twickenham between the defending champions New Zealand and Australia, the Springboks claimed third place with a comfortable win over Argentina.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer predicted a bright future for the side after they finished their rugby World Cup campaign with a 24-13 third place play-off win.
The Springboks recovered from their opening day 34-32 loss to Japan to win their remaining pool games and edge past Wales before narrowly losing to New Zealand in last Saturday’s semi-final.
With several players still in their early 20s, including lock Eben Etzebeth who scored a try against the Pumas and fly-half Handre Pollard, who kicked 14 points in the match, the future appears glory laden.
"Having been so close I think this team can be invincible going forward," said 48-year-old Meyer. "In four years, even another year, they will be a different team."
Whether Meyer will remain in charge, however, is still uncertain. His players have urged him to stay on. "I truly believe you shouldn't let compliments go to your head and you shouldn't let criticism go to your heart," said Meyer of the flak he endured following the Japan loss.
After the semi-final defeat to New Zealand, Meyer said preparing for Friday night's bronze medal match was tough. "If you drop your standards as coach, and you're happy and jumping up and down with third place you shouldn't be the coach of South Africa," he added.
Meyer, criticised for bringing back Victor Matfield out of retirement last year, paid tribute to the veteran lock, who played his last Test on Friday. "He's one of the greatest to ever play the game," reflected Meyer.
"Some people dream dreams but don't have the character to make them come true. He took a chance and came through."
Matfield agreed: "It was definitely worth coming out of retirement. After the Japan game something special happened. "We were one match away from competing for the trophy. The guys picked themselves up," added the 38-year-old who was Springboks' captain for the day.
Argentina also emerged from the competition with high hopes. They won plaudits for their adventurous attacking rugby.
Coach Daniel Hourcade said the tournament was a huge achievement for his players.
"We have done very well over the whole of the World Cup. Our long-term goal was the World Cup in Japan in 2019 but we wanted to leave things ready for the future and being in the top four is great."
Argentina took third place at the 2007 World Cup but then many of the players retired.
Hourcade insisted that would not happen again as the squad is younger. "After 2007 many players retired and Argentine rugby suffered but this time we do not have to start from scratch. We will carry on going."
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