England’s energy-sapping battle with the All Blacks may count against them ahead of a meeting with the abrasive Springboks in the World Cup final, writes JON CARDINELLI in Yokohama.
Do England have anything left in the tank after their emphatic physical display against the All Blacks? Can the Boks recover from their recent battle with Wales despite the disadvantage of a six-day turnaround?
These are the questions that matter ahead of the World Cup final next Saturday. In the immediate aftermath of the Boks’ gritty win over Wales, the losing coach summed up the situation quite neatly.
‘I thought that England were outstanding in their win against the All Blacks,’ said Warren Gatland. ‘However, sometimes we see teams playing their final in a semi-final.
‘Sometimes they don’t replicate that performance in the final itself. It will be interesting to see what England do after that big game against New Zealand.’
Gatland and opposite number Rassie Erasmus conceded that the second semi-final was not much of a spectacle. The Wales coach praised the Boks’ composure and tenacity in the dying stages before suggesting that some variation may be in order ahead of the final.
‘If you look back at our meetings over the past few years, we’ve come out on top of some tight ones,’ Gatland said. ‘Congratulations to them, they came out on top of a tight one tonight.
‘They had a pretty simple gameplan today with a strong set piece and Damian de Allende running it down the middle. There was a lot of kicking from Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard. It was effective and they did what they had to do to make the final.
‘South Africa deserved to win. They may need to be a bit more expansive, though, in how they play next week.’
Erasmus felt that the result against Wales justified his selection policy and gameplan. The 6-2 split on the bench continues to ensure that the Boks maintain their forward assault for 80 minutes, and the liberal use of the boot continues to reap territorial rewards.
‘I’m not sure that an expansive game or a push to score a lot of wonderful tries is the way to go in a World Cup final,’ a puzzled Erasmus said when he was told about Gatland’s comment.
‘We have some room for improvement, but I believe that we have given ourselves a chance [of winning the final].
‘We know the England team well. We had some good battles with them last year, with them winning two and us winning two.
‘They’re a lot better now than they were then, though, so we know that we will have to step up.’
One thing that won’t change in next week’s decider is Erasmus’ attire. The Bok coach revealed that he has not changed the smart white shirt that he wears on game days since the victory against Namibia earlier in the tournament.
‘Every time we lose a Test, I change my clothing,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘Last year [when the Boks lost 50% of their matches] I was changing quite a lot.
‘We’ve lost only one game this year, so I’ve changed only once. This is my lucky shirt, and I hope that it does the trick in the final.’
Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Image