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Four To Watch – The Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals

The Rugby World Cup semi-finals are here, so who are you backing?

Fancy the holders, South Africa, to overturn England’s chariot on Saturday night?

Or was the Springboks’ massive effort to beat hosts France in the last eight, a game that will have taken so much out of them that England can profit?

Are you a now an Argentina fan, since they dumped out Wales, and do you think they can produce an enormous shock on Friday night to get past New Zealand?

Or will it be the All Blacks – losers in their opening match – but defiant and deadly against Ireland in their quarter-final, who will now reach the final again?

Here’s four players to watch and maybe sway your semi-final judgement.

Siya Kolisi (South Africa)

The South Africa captain is now 32, but his influence on the Springboks teams appears as strong as ever.

Unflashy and unspectacular in his work in the back row, Kolisi tends to make plenty of dominant tackles, often resulting in turnovers for the world champions.

Together with fellow flanker Pieter-Steph de Toit and No.8 Duane Vermeulen, Kolisi forms part of a trio who can switch quickly between attacking and defensive mode, whatever the circumstance.

Kolisi has played in four matches at the tournament so far and has made an impressive 36 successful tackles, second only to Franco Mostert.

If the Springboks skipper get in the groove and stops England’s ball-carriers in their tracks, then the Red Rose bunch are going to find it tough going.

Ben Earl (England)

Not many outside of English rugby had heard of Ben Earl before this tournament, but he’s quickly gone from low key to indispensable.

Having stepped into the fray for the banned Billy Vunipola in England’s opening win over Argentina, Earl has impressed more with every game.

England defense coach Kevin Sinfield – not man who usually goes overboard – said this week of Earl. “If you named a World XV at this time, he would be close to getting in it.”

Dynamic and rapid with the ball in hand, it’s the stats that are so impressive.

Most tackles by an England player? Earl, with 60.

Most runs made by an England player? Earl, with 48.

The second-most clean breaks by an England player? Earl, with five.

Earl, a centre/wing as a schoolboy, has also beaten 17 defenders on his runs and invariably led metres gained in the quarter-finals, with 97.

Mateo Carreras (Argentina)

Argentina had been pretty unimpressive for three matches in this tournament and needed something to spark them into  life before their final pool match against Japan, which they had to win.

Step forward wing Mateo Carreras, who proved a genuine livewire and finished on the winning side with three tries.

The Newcastle Falcons star is swift and skillful and finishes from what can appear unlikely opportunities.

He’s durable, too, having recovered from a leg injury that seemed likely to rule him out at one stage before the win against Wales.

The 23-year-old will be key against the All Blacks, part of a team that are efficient in their attacking threat. The Pumas came away with 4.33 points for every visit to the Wales 22, compared to just 2.33 for their opponents.

Will Jordan (New Zealand)

Will Jordan is the latest in a long line of devastating All Blacks wings, having scored 28 tries in 29 Tests to date, including five in this tournament.

The 25-year-old has overcome his share of injuries, but as he showed with his scorching try against Ireland in the quarter-final, there are few better finishers around.

Jordan always seem to sense that moment just before the danger is obvious, whether the ball is in his own hands or that of a teammate.

His chasing game is sound, his aerial game is strong and if he manages just one try against the Pumas then he be level with France’s Damian Penaud as the tournament’s top tryscorer.

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