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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice