Ref intervenes as heartbroken England tussle with South Africa after full time

Rugby World Cup referee Ben O'Keeffe struggled to contain the tensions at full-time following South Africa's tense win over England on Saturday.

The Springboks came back from nine points down in the final 10 minute to emerge as 16-15 victors at the Stade de France. They'll advance to meet New Zealand next Saturday in an all-southern-hemisphere final, robbing the Red Rose of its revenge moment following defeat in Tokyo four years ago.

And the manner of the outcome clearly didn't sit well with some of the players as both squads almost came to blows after the final whistle. South Africa full-back Willie le Roux and England scrum-half Danny Care appeared to be at the centre of the melee before Owen Farrell also got involved.

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Steve Borthwick's skipper appeared to be coming to his team-mate's aid as stars from both sides squared up. And it took the efforts of try-scorer RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Jesse Kriel and Joe Marchant to separate the two parties.

It marked a bitter end to what was an exhilarating night of rugby, where England appeared to be set for arguably the biggest upset of the tournament prior to their collapse. Handre Pollard was brought on as an emergency substitute just 30 minutes into the contest and kicked eight vital points to extend his side's quest by the slimmest of margins.

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There were also reports of bad blood between Boks hooker Bongi Mbonambi and England back-rower Tom Curry. The Times' Will Kelleher wrote that Mbonambi refused Curry's handshake by slapping it away, with the latter reporting to O'Keeffe for something the former supposedly said to him during the first half.

To his credit, Farrell played the scuffle down after the fact and said it was 'just a misunderstanding' between the two sets of players. The referee could also be heard attempting to simmer tensions and shouted: "Everyone's emotional guys, cut it out!"

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Despite getting to grips with the South Africans in a more literal sense at the final whistle, England's captain was humble in defeat and told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I am unbelievably proud of this group and what they have done over this past few months together.

"It has not all gone our way as everybody knows, we have had everything thrown at us – it has been a rollercoaster. I'm glad where we have built to, but gutted we don't have a crack at the big one next week. I am massively proud of this group and I hope everyone back home is as well.

For Farrell, Saturday's close call in Paris may be his penultimate World Cup appearance, with a bronze medal play-off against Argentina still to come on Friday.. That piece of history didn't come with the winners' medals he and his team-mates hoped for, but the future nonetheless looks bright for Steve Borthwick's group

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