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The BBC's Ian Robertson: "The hero of the hour this time was Stephen Larkham"
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Australia's coach Rod MacQueen: "I Though South Africa played Australia well"
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Sunday, 31 October, 1999, 05:34 GMT
Aussies triumph in epic

australia Relief for Australia as the whistle is blown on a tense semi-final


Australia 27-21 South Africa

Australia ended South Africa's unbeaten World Cup record with a nerve-jangling semi-final extra-time victory at Twickenham.

In the most dramatic game of the World Cup so far, Australia were initially denied victory by the last kick of normal time - but they rallied again to see off the champions in extra-time.

Stephen Larkham's 48-metre drop-goal sealed victory and sent the Aussies through to next weekend's final against New Zealand or France.

Coach Rod Macqueen praised his fly-half, who had battled to beat a severe knee injury.

"He's capable of doing some special things. What we saw today is a player who is getting back to his best."

Neither side managed to touch down, though not for want of trying, and the game ultimately rested on the kicking of Matt Burke and Jannie de Beer.

An injury-time kick after 85 minutes from de Beer brought the South Africans level at 18-18 to thrill the 73,500 crowd.

And when yet another De Beer penalty took them three points ahead in extra-time, it looked ominous for Australia, who led for most of the game. But it was not to be the Springboks' day.

Nervous opening

With both sides clearly looking to play in the other's half, the early exchanges were frantic.


Fleck Robbie Fleck holds off a host of Australian tacklers
After losing two early line-outs, John Eales eventually took a clean catch, but Larkham's drop-kick drifted wide.

Minutes later, Burke missed an opportunity to put Australia ahead after Dion Kayser was penalised for holding onto the ball.

But when referee Derek Bevan awarded Australia a second penalty, Burke struck it sweetly to secure the game's first points.

Australia were clearly in the driving seat, and when Horan raced through, breaking two midfield tackles, South Africa were again penalised for hanging offside in front of the posts.

Burke added another three points, before De Beer landed a Springbok penalty after the Aussies were adjudged to have used hands in the ruck.

It seemed to spur South Africa on, but Bevan again penalised the Springboks for offside in their own 22, giving Burke yet another opportunity to prove his worth in front of the posts.

With so much resting on the result, it was perhaps inevitable that each kick would assume monumental importance.

De Beer had started nervously, but he made no mistake - bringing the scores to within three points - when Horan was adjudged offside just before the break.

And yet another penalty followed when Krynauw Otto came over the top in a ruck, giving Burke the chance to slot his fourth penalty before Bevan blew for half-time.

Springboks attack

South Africa came out strongly after the break, with captain Joost Van Der Westhuizen, troubling Australia with a number of superb chip-kicks.

Australia broke away, after Daniel Herbert charged down De Beer's third drop goal attempt of the match, but play was brought back by Bevan, who had penalised Australia for offside.


de beer De Beer: Kept South Africa in the game
De Beer now looked more comfortable and he slotted it easily, before striking a superb drop-goal to bring the scores level.

Australia replaced Ben Tune with the experienced Jason Little mid-way through the second period, before a superb break from Fleck was stopped only after Larkham intercepted what could have been a clear try scoring opportunity.

South Africa had stepped up a gear. But still, it was Australia who once again moved ahead, courtesy of another Burke penalty.

Horan was unlucky not to touch over after making a blistering break through the centre. And with Eales supporting, Australia surged towards the Springbok line, earning a penalty in the process, which Burke converted in front of the posts.

Minutes later, De Beer replied after Australia were caught offside, bringing the scores, yet again, to within three points.

With just two minutes injury time awarded, the final seconds were frantic. Play continued well over the allotted time, however, and when both teams went down for a Springbok scrum on 85 minutes, an Aussie win looked inevitable.

Still, the Springboks refused to give up, driving on into the Australian half, and with Bevan on the verge of ending the game, he awarded South Africa one last penalty.

De Beer collected himself and slotted it between the posts from 40-yards. It was a remarkable kick, earning both sides a further 20 minutes of injury-time.

High drama

First blood went to South Africa, with Herbert penalised in front of the posts for going over the top.

De Beer made no mistake as the Springboks took the lead for the first time in the game.

It seemed to signal a change for fortunes and as rain began to fall it looked as if the Springboks' unbeaten World Cup run would go on.

But a superb break from Roth, resulted in yet another penalty, with Burke levelling the scores at 21-all.

With the end of injury-time approaching, Larkham struck a magnificent opportunist drop-goal, his first in international rugby, to move Australia ahead once again.

It was an epic contest, despite the lack of tries. And when Van der Westhuizen was penalised for playing the ball in the scrum, Burke stepped up to push the game beyond the Springboks for the final time.

Teams

Australia: 15 Matthew Burke; 14 Ben Tune, 13 Daniel Herbert, 12 Tom Horan, 11 Joe Roff; 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan; 8 Toutai Kefu, 7 David Wilson, 6 Matt Cockbain, 5 John Eales, 4 David Giffin, 3 Andrew Blades, 2 Michael Foley, 1 Richard Harry.
Replacements: 16 Jason Little, 17 Nathan Grey, 18 Chris Whitaker, 19 Owen Finegan, 20 Mark Connors, 21 Rod Moore, 22 Jeremy Paul.

South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Deon Kayser, 13 Robbie Fleck, 12 Pieter Muller, 11 Pieter Rossouw; 10 Jannie De Beer, 9 Joost van der Westhuizen (captain); 8 Bobby Skinstad, 7 Andre Venter, 6 Rassie Erasmus, 5 Mark Andrews, 4 Krynauw Otto, 3 Cobus Visagie, 2 Naka Drotske, 1 Os Du Randt.

Referee: Derek Bevan (Wales)

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