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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat