In spite of the last minute effort by the Welsh to comeback and snatch a win from France; the Red Dragons look the better contender to advance to the finals against England in a fortnight.
Watching the game on television last night, the French had done enough to win the match but didn’t have the killer punch to amass enough points to keep the margin clear from the grasp of the Six Nations champion, Wales.
But the unlucky red card on French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina for smashing his elbow into the face of flanker Aaron Wainwright in a needless moment of foul play weakened Les Bleus playing the last half-hour with 14 men.
The nine-point margin was chewed up by a penalty and a converted try which pushed Wales 20-19 to pip the French on full time.
The last quarterfinal between unheralded hosts Japan and South Africa was a tussle of strength and strategy with the Springboks’ so simple and decisive.
Playing to their strength in the height with tons of high balls, the Boks cut off the successful ground assaults that the Japanese had utilised in their pool matches especially against Ireland and Scotland.
The tackling by the South Africans was increased and the effective ploy in the elimination of the speed and power in the two wideouts Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima, sometimes gang tackling by the heavier Boks’ defenders.
The intensive running game by the Brave Blossoms in their last match against the Scots had sapped the strength of the forwards, especially the loose forwards who had seemingly had endless supply of energy.
Pivot Yu Tamura who had amassed a total of 51 points; had an off day with his attacks and bag of options in pinpoint cross and grubber kicks which had softened the sharpness of attacks witnessed during the pool games.
The open show of emotions by the Japanese in weeping with the loss by both players and fans has characterised the 2019 Rugby World Cup as a tournament that gave freedom for expression for men to publicly weep.
Incidently, the weeping by the players and fans were not confined to the quarterfinal loss but were witnessed in the victories over tier one nations Ireland and Scotland in the pool matches.
England are beginning to show glimpses of their armory with the dispatching of Australia 40-16 in the earlier quarterfinals on Saturday and the Kiwis dismissed Ireland with a 46-14 scoreline.
England is the only team that can match New Zealand with brute strength and swiftness of play so the winners of the first semi-final this Saturday may very well walk away with the spoils, the Webb-Ellis Cup.
Wales have the size and strength to match the Springboks in the second semi-final but both teams currently don’t have the firepower and defence to match the first semi-finalist opponents.
England looks like the form team to win a second title.