As a Charlotte sportswriter,the perfect records of both the Hornets (7-0 in preseason) and Panthers-now 6-0 after a solid 27-16Sunday Prime Time night victory over the Philadelphia Eagles - have been all you could ask for. As a sports fan and ex-rugger though, discovering the All Blacks-Springboks semi-final for the Webb Ellis Cup was on "free" TV vs. pay-per-view was an additional strata of joy.

Having a significant amount of well-spiced chili already simmering on the stove and a hearty "oil can" of Fosters beerto accompany it, that's a karmic amount of Goodness. From watching the Maori-inspired haka pregame ritual of New Zealand till the final tackle, nothing interfered with recalling long-ago adventures on the pitch, juxtaposed with high-caliber action on the screen.

That the packs of 8 forwards totaled 2000 pounds each, and ground against each other without benefit of shoulder pads or helmets, was obvious testament to rugby's reputation as a "tough sport".

Even clearer than the dominance New Zealand showed in the90th meeting of arguably the worlds best sides, playing the vast majority of the game in South Africa's end, or extendedphases of play (renewing the offense after a ball carrier had been tackled to the ground), was the sterling level of explanation for situational play by the announcing team in the 20-18 match. Pointing out that the Springboks were testing a particular All Black youngster at wing with high kicks was legitimate; that New Zealand fly half Dan Carter's next kicking points (2-2 pt.

conversions, a penalty kick and a drop goal have him at 1,579; next Saturday's final will probably be his last game) would make him the sports all-time scorer was succinct, as was the the one-time comment "and that's why he's the richest man in rugby," regarding his accurate and prolific foot.

That the referee was miked while explaining calls to the players was excellent, and quiteproductive for novice viewers.

When All Black flanker Jerome Kaino earned 10 minutes in the "sin bin" after being called for a cynical foul, meaning only done for a tactical reason, like breaking an opponent’s rhythm (his transgression was booting a ball from an offside position) and not to play the ball, it was a revelation. That another cynical call, essentially a choke-arm wrapped around a players throat in a loose scrum, was relayed from the booth to the referee, was brilliantly precise in a sport where rucking, mauling, and jumpers being hoisted in lineouts (like hockey face-offs, but more dramatic) are alien to many American watchers.

South Africa's 21-year old flyhalf Handre Pollard tallied five penalty kicks to keep the match tight, Lambie adding a long-distance three to the total. They never came close to scoring a try against the All Black defense.

New Zealand now has the overall lead in victories 53-35-3. Their most epic meeting was the Rugby World Cup finals of 1995, chronicled in the 2009 film "Invictus", about RSA President Nelson Mandela and Springbok captain Francois Pienaar's efforts to rally post-apartheid South Africa behind the team. The All Black's will now play their Down Under rivals, the Wallabies of Australia, with hopes of becoming the first ever back-to-back Rugby World Cup champions. The Aussies earned their spot in the finals with an incredibly stout-hearted 29-15 win over Argentina.

"Sevens rugby" (7 vs. 15 players/side), an incredibly fast version of the game, will be an Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro.

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