South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus warned his team they were only “halfway” there after edging a “nerve-wracking” semi-final against Wales to set up a World Cup final with England.
A late Handre Pollard penalty gave the Springboks a 19-16 victory to set up a World Cup final showdown with Eddie Jones’s England in Yokohama on Saturday.
“It was nerve-wracking out there,” said Erasmus, after the Pollard penalty with only four minutes on the clock sent the two-time champions through.
South Africa had lost their previous four Tests against Wales, and Erasmus admitted that record was on his mind as the nail-biting match came to a head.
“Losing the previous four matches against them. It could have gone their way again,” he said. “I have so much respect for Wales and their coach that I thought those last few minutes, they might pull it through again. I think a little bit of luck (was) on our side.”
Asked if he had regained some respect for South African rugby, which was in the doldrums when he took over, Erasmus said: “We’re in the final of the World Cup. I guess that’s some respect but that’s only halfway there. We’d love to win the World Cup.”
He described final opponents England as “classy” after they dismantled reigning champions New Zealand 19-7 in the other semi-final on Saturday.
And Erasmus also paid tribute to his substitutes and a ferocious defensive effort that keep Wales out as the clock ticked down.
“Those kind of things really gel a team together and those moments count,” he said.
Wales coach Warren Gatland said the Springboks “deserved to win” after his side failed to topple South Africa for the third time in a World Cup match.
“We never gave up and we got ourselves back into the game. It was a real arm-wrestle,” said Gatland after the kick-dominated and error-strewn match.
However, Gatland, who is stepping down after 12 years in charge, paid tribute to Wales which he said “punches massively above our weight in terms of playing numbers”.
“They’ve given us 100 percent. They continue to do so. We got ourselves back in that game tonight. Really close contest,” said Gatland.