Mzwandile Stick says the Springboks were not surprised by the side England are fielding for the World Cup semi-final and are expecting a completely different challenge to the 2019 final.
Saturday’s semi-final clash will be the first time that the Springboks face England at a World Cup since that fateful day in Yokohama four years ago.
The two sides have played against each other twice since the 32-12, both times at Twickenham, with England snatching victory in 2021, before the Springboks put on an impressive display to win in what was Eddie Jones’ last game in charge of the Red Roses in 2022.
With former England forward Steve Borthwick replacing Jones after a successful start to his head coaching career at Leicester Tigers, Bok assistant coach Stick knows that the Roses will be very different to what they have become accustomed to facing.
“One thing I know for sure, without even going too deep to 2019, in the past year they are a totally different team,” Stick said. “I know they started slow under the new coaching staff with Borthwick, because we analysed them and we go deep into how they do things and what they stand for. To be honest, there’s been a lot of changes in how they do things.
“If you look at the way they are kicking, you know (they are) probably the closest team to France, the amount of kicks you get in a game. We analysed some of the games and even when they played against teams like Chile, they will probably go over 40 kicks in a game. That shows you that there’s a bit of tweaking in how they do things.
“We would never, ever, underestimate them because we know on a good day, when they switch that right button, they can be a dangerous team. So, I think they are a better team, where they are now, at the moment.”
While the Springboks opted to name an unchanged matchday-23 from the side that beat tournament hosts France in the quarter-finals, England have made three changes to their lineup.
One of those changes comes at fullback, where Freddie Steward replaces the concussed Marcus Smith, while the other two alterations are purely rotational in the pack.
“I don’t think there are actually big surprises. It’s actually what we expected from the team Rassie (Erasmus) ‘announced’ earlier in the week,” Stick said.
“I think there’s been two changes with Marcus Smith not cleared to play because of concussion. (George) Martin has been doing very well for them, one of the top upcoming young players and for him to get a starting place against the Springboks shows that the coaching staff really believe in his physique. He is a good player.
“At the moment, England in general are in a good place as a team. They are getting the results they are looking for and you can see a shift in their mindset, they are really physical. How they played against Fiji in the quarter-final, we were impressed with the physicality in the game. Not really many surprises, I think they have selected their best possible team.”
Photo: Steve Bardens – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images