An all Southern Hemisphere semifinal line-up for the first time in World Cup history creates the distinct impression that the rugby played on either side of the equator is vastly different.

The situation is not as extreme as it looks. The Northern Hemisphere hasn't had a great tournament but it's not lagging miles behind. Nor is it a blanket - of simply saying one brand of rugby is better than the other.

Southern Hemisphere rugby can't be called a brand as such - New Zealand and South Africa for example, could hardly be called two peas in a pod.

But there are common traits shared by all four Rugby Championship sides that were prevalent in the quarter-finals. Under pressure, all four of them executed better when they needed to.


There was a clinical edge when chances were created. South Africa didn't play much rugby against Wales but they grafted themselves into position. One poor defensive read by Welsh wing Alex Cuthbert and Duane Vermeulen flipped an offload and Fourie du Preez scored.

The chance suddenly came and they pounced. Unlike Scotland who were on the verge of pulling off the greatest knockout upset in history when they made a dumb choice to throw to the tail of the lineout with two minutes left.

The ball was overthrown, spilled and then the players in front of it ruled offside. Chance of a lifetime lost when flat ball to the front and time wasting pick and go was all they needed to do.

The other Southern Hemisphere commonality - linked to their better decision-making - is their base conditioning. It's not scientific or foolproof by any means, but the body shapes of the Southern Hemisphere players tend to be leaner.

The Irish front row in particular were carrying spare tyres, as were the English. This is a sport all about making marginal gains and if the tight five can not only last a bit longer, but get around that bit better, it makes a huge difference.

That mobility matters. The All Blacks had the world gasping against France because their two props - Charlie Faumuina and Joe Moody were so comfortable on the ball.

It's partly true they are both naturally gifted that way but they were only able to show that because of them have worked tirelessly over the last six months to get themselves fitter.

Now that they have better aerobic capacity, they can be where they need to be and think and execute better because they are not battling fatigue.


All Black coach Steve Hansen made that point about Moody, in explaining why the little known Crusader was able to play so well against France.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the teams of 1999 and 2007 can rest easy as the 2015 AB's have avenged and laid to rest the ghosts of those defeats.

"A lot of that reflects on the hard work he has done," said Hansen. "I think fitness has probably been his biggest handicap or lack of it. He's one of the strongest guys in the team and he can play rugby. But the limiting factor is how long how can play for because he hasn't been fit enough.

"He has turned up in magnificent condition and he has got the reward for it. He scrummed well, he played well, did his job at the lineout and carried. Those skills go when you don't have the ability to get to the right places because you are not fit enough."

Hear what the All Black players think about destroying the French in the quarter-finals, and looking forward to the old Springbok foe. Dan Cater and Julian Savea join Dane Coles and try scoring lock Brodie Retallick to reflect on the stunning victory.

That's probably the only common differences. Wales certainly didn't look like they were a team without ability. Injuries hurt them harder than anyone else and they looked fit, skilled and organised. They just lacked belief and accuracy at critical junctures.

The Scots lacked defensive linespeed but that was about it against the Wallabies. Ireland were also hit hard by injuries but their biggest issue is that they don't take enough risks.

Argentina knew that, came at them with everything in the first 15 minutes to build a lead knowing Ireland didn't necessarily have the game to open things up and chase down a big score.

England and France have bigger problems and are thesis subject topics on where they have gone wrong, but they have players and resource which means they have hope.

- By Gregor Paul in Cardiff