Deans: Wallabies came of age
October 9, 2011
David Pocock picked up the man-of-the-match award © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans has praised the "immense" performance of David Pocock, after the instrumental flanker helped secure a semi-final clash with New Zealand.
Pocock struggled with a back injury earlier in the World Cup, missing the games with Ireland and the United States before making a try-scoring return in the rout of Russia last Saturday. The 23-year-old was at his devastating best against South Africa in Wellington, dominating the breakdown and putting in relentless hits in defence.
"He was immense," Deans said. "David Pocock's game was remarkable, and it was bigger than he got credit for. The world is blessed with some very good snafflers at the moment, and no doubt people will be looking forward to next week, to that end.
"What you saw out there was the most experienced World Cup side in the world [South Africa] really turn the screws on the youngest. So, our boys came of age in terms of the way they accepted that challenge and stood up to it. We saw an epic World Cup encounter. Different, but that's what makes this game what it is."
Looking ahead to next weekend's contest with southern hemisphere rivals Australia and Wales' last-four showdown with France, Deans said: "I have got no doubt that the next couple of weeks will be the best World Cup rugby that we've ever seen. The bar just keeps going up in terms of the capability of the sides."
Australia captain James Horwill admitted his side had been under the cosh for long periods, but he praised his team's character and resilience.
"Not everything went our way and we put ourselves under a lot of pressure," he said. "But one thing you can't teach or train is effort and commitment from the group. Every member of our team showed a hell of a lot of both of those. We feel we got the result we deserved on the back of a massive effort from the whole group. Moving forward that is what it's going to take."
Horwill scored the only try of a full-blooded, but often dour, contest, with James O'Connor booting two penalties and Morne Steyn slotting two penalties and dropping a goal for South Africa.
But the Springboks were left to rue several missed opportunities, while they never got to grips with New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence's interpretation at the breakdown, where Wallabies openside flanker Pocock flourished.
"Quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals, you have got to take your chances. It didn't go our way, we didn't take all our chances," South Africa coach Peter De Villiers said. "The guys are quiet. We never expected this, so it was not a really good mood in the changing room."
Assessing his seven years as Springboks captain, John Smit, who is retiring from the Test arena, said: "It is a sad occasion. You never prepare for how it ends because you want it to be a fairytale, you want it to be a final, but it hasn't worked out that way. It would be silly to take that seven years and judge it by what happened today.
"I have been blessed to be in charge of these guys and run out with them, and blessed to be captain of the Springboks. I am devastated today. It is the end of a chapter and I am proud of the guys I have played with and really proud to have been a Springbok. It is the first time I have lost a game on the scoreboard and won it every other way from a statistical point of view, so it makes it even harder to accept."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.