England defence coach John Mitchell says he expects the Springboks to be more direct than the All Blacks in the World Cup final on Saturday.
A repeat of the 2007 final presents England with a chance to pick up their first World Cup since 2003. England have won their last two games against the Springboks, but fell to a 2-1 series loss to their opponents in 2018.
Mitchell only joined England after their tour to South Africa last year, but his arrival has coincided with an improvement in the team’s performances, especially defensively. This was no less illustrated in their semi-final win over the All Blacks, where they nilled the New Zealanders in the first half for the first time since 2012 and restricted them to just one try against the run of play.
While Mitchell was pleased with how England handled New Zealand’s threat from both their kicking and offloading game, he said that he expects the Springboks to bring something different in Yokohama.
‘What we do have or what we are going to witness are the two most powerful rugby teams in the world. They are strong, well coached, the gainline is going to be huge. It’s a testament to both sides.
‘Going back to our DNA, we feel it’s really important to us. We feel there is more to bring out and we are still going to have to work hard for each other.’
The New Zealander will certainly have a good idea of the Boks’ gameplan, having spent a good period of his coaching career in South Africa with both the Lions and Vodacom Bulls.
‘They play in a particular way, but you must always be prepared for anything that comes to us. They have a very clever nine [Faf de Klerk], who is sharp. Polly [Handre Pollard] is in really, really good form. They have four second rowers who love winning the gainline. They have their own armoury. It’s exciting.
‘Last week, we dealt with a lot of speed, a lot of footwork. This week they are certainly going to be a team that is more direct. Pressure is definitely going to come that asks questions of your fundamentals, so that comes down to our core basics that are really important to us – supporting your mate on the floor and in the carry is really critical with the pressure likely to come in the air and on the floor.’
There have been doubts about whether England can raise their game again, following an exhausting semi-final, but Mitchell says he feels they can take another step up from their performance last weekend.
‘We are really excited by the week,’ Mitchell said. ‘In reality, all we have done is present ourselves with another opportunity at the right end of the tournament. We want to get better, and we feel we can get better as well.
‘Like every opposition in this competition, they come with different threats and present different opportunities. We’ll just stay focused on what we have to do, how we go about it, take it day by day. Everyone is really calm and eager to get on to their work – we have just got to go and earn it now.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 29, 2019
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images