Australia's defensive masterclass forces De Villiers to walk away

South Africa 9 Australia 11

Peter de Villiers stood down as South Africa's head coach after this nail-biting quarter-final, bringing to an end one of the most colourful and bizarre reigns in world rugby. The Springboks coach has veered from the sublime to the ridiculous during his four years in charge, which included a Tri-Nations title and series win over the British Lions in 2009.

His appointment as the first non-white coach of the Springboks was initially regarded as ground-breaking, though his ability to put his foot in his mouth with unguarded and ill-judged comments left him open for ridicule and criticism. However, here in Wellington, De Villiers spoke with genuine sincerity when announcing he would stand down after South Africa's reign as champions was ended by James O'Connor's penalty eight minutes from time.

"It has been a brilliant journey, something you guys can never take away from me," he said. "There is a time and a time to go so I think the journey for me is over.

"I have been passionate about my country and we have always tried to give hope to the poor people back home who do not have the same privileges. I wanted to be the best man I could be and the way I am is the way I want to be remembered."

The game was also the last Test appearance for World Cup winners Victor Matfield and captain John Smit, who retire from international rugby, having amassed a combined 221 caps.

Smit, who will join Saracens, hailed Matfield as the "greatest" Springbok of all time. He added: "It's a sad occasion. You never plan for the way it will end because you dream of the fairy-tale finish in a final and it's sad that it has ended like this.

"I am devastated. It is the first time I have lost a game on the scoreboard that we have dominated everywhere else on the field."

Smit criticised Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence for not reining in David Pocock at the breakdown, but the Wallaby flanker was brilliant, Australia making up for a horror show in attack with a remarkable defensive display.

"It was disappointing the breakdown was not refereed fairly. It was pretty much the only talking point really in the game between myself and the referee and the messages I was getting through obviously weren't working," Smit said. "He [Pocock] was brilliant under Bryce Lawrence's interpretations. When we decided to be brave and keep the ball, you'd normally be rewarded as an attacking team."

Australia were forced to make almost three times as many tackles as the Springboks – they also conceded 76 per cent territory and endured a patchy display from Quade Cooper – yet still managed to score the game's only try with their first attack, skipper James Horwill barging over.

Morne Steyn kicked South Africa ahead 9-8 on the hour before Danie Rossouw needlessly up-ended Radike Samo at a lineout and O'Connor held his nerve to fire over the winner, to secure a place in the semi-finals, where Australia will face New Zealand.

"There will be a lot of emotion during the week but our guys are equipped to handle that," Australian coach Robbie Deans. "We saw the most experienced World Cup side [South Africa] really turn the screw on the youngest squad and our boys really came of age in the way they accepted that challenge and stood up to it.

"It was an epic World Cup encounter but over the next two weeks we will see the best World Cup rugby ever played because the bar is constantly being raised."

Scorers: Australia: Try Horwill; Penalties O'Connor 2. South Africa: Penalties Steyn 2; Drop goal Steyn.

Australia K Beale (A Faingaa, 74); J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, P McCabe (B Barnes, 52), D Ioane; Q Cooper, W Genia; S Kepu (J Slipper, 69), S Moore (T Poplota-Nau, 64), B Alexander, D Vickerman (N Sharpe, 54), J Horwill (capt), R Elsom, R Samo, D Pocock.

South Africa P Lambie; JP Pieterson, J Fourie, J De Villiers, B Habana (F Hougaard, 50); M Steyn, F Du Preez; G Steenkamp, J Smit (capt, B Du Plessis, 50), J Du Plessis, D Rossouw, V Matfield, H Brussow (F Louw, 20), P Spies (W Alberts, 63), S Burger (W Alberts, 14-18).

Referee Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific