Rassie Erasmus has said that Saturday’s final will not be won with expansive rugby and lots of tries, and that is true, writes former Springbok JAMES DALTON.
In a match that will be hugely physical and tight, and probably settled by penalties, Saturday’s final will be won by the side that can hold on to the ball for a lower risk of getting penalised and remain the most disciplined.
Effectively, in what will be the most physical rugby clash of 2019, it is the mental strength required by both sides to not concede penalties that will determine the outcome.
The English pack is, alongside ours, the best in the world. Their 80-minute dominance over New Zealand in the semi-final affirmed that. Our pack, I would say, is potentially slightly better man for man, also showing this dominance over New Zealand in the pool stage, but the question is whether they can dominate for 80 minutes, too, and not just the first 30.
This is a game that will be won up front, in the collision and by securing the breakdown and turnovers. England have an incredibly efficient loose trio, and South Africa need to be cognisant of nullifying and beating them at the breakdown. Equally, we need to be aware that as world class and impactful as our reserves are, so too are England’s.
Rassie will go with what has worked thus far in the tournament, selection- and strategy-wise. Our lineouts have been superb and so too our scrumming effort. Faf de Klerk seems to be coming into his own and executing the gameplan better and ultimately the Springboks just need to be clinical in what they do – from kicking to collision.
We can’t afford to kick the ball away aimlessly, as England’s backline has been lethal in linking on attack, and we need to gain dominance in the collision and at set piece in order for our chosen style of play to be effective.
There are many similarities between these England and South African sides, another of which is the playmaker role. Farrell, playing at both 10 and 12, is key to the England backline.
Along with his brilliant boot, he is physical and plays to the gainline. Handre Pollard shares the exact same abilities and granted the forwards present Faf with clean ball, and he in turn can recycle it quickly when he doesn’t opt to kick. Pollard can be a lethal and confrontational attacking No 10.
Damian de Allende, whose form has been superb at 12, only complements this aggressive style of play with his physicality and so the 10-12 channel will be a great battle come Saturday.
England and South Africa enter the final match on equal footing capability-wise. England’s powerful display against the All Blacks makes a case for them to be winners, yet the Springboks World Cup statistics in tries, tackles, running meters and set-piece success make an equally compelling case for them.
The stars are aligning in another 12-year cycle akin to 1995 and 2007 for South Africa to win, but let’s hope that we also break the statistic that states no team losing a pool-stage match has ever won a final.
My heart says South Africa, but it is a matter of who can showcase very similar rugby abilities the best, come 2 November.
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