England and South Africa will meet on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup final for the second time after coming through two completely different semi-finals.
After Eddie Jones’ side obliterated the All Blacks on Saturday in one of the all-time great RWC performances, the Springboks’ match against Wales was somewhat different.
Warren Gatland predicted that his side would be embroiled in a “kicking fest”, and that manifested in Yokohama. Wales showed attacking endeavour early in the game, and were able to exploit the Springboks’ narrow defence, but as the game progressed, both sides turned to the boot more frequently.
In light of the performance, England fans are growing in confidence that they may be able to avenge the final loss in 2007. There is simply no denying that there was a gulf in class between the two semi-finals, as the Springboks’ game was based upon preying on Wales’ mistakes.
With the scores level at 16-16 with ten minutes to go, Alun-Wyn Jones’ side could easily have come away victorious, but it was ultimately a Handré Pollard penalty that proved decisive.
In contrast, there was barely a moment where England did not have the upper hand against the defending champions, in a stunning display. Based on those two matches, it is understandable why England fans on social media feel upbeat.
This is what has been said:
This South Africa team are terrible to watch. Box kick after box kick after box kick. If they play that way next week they'll have to hope England players have forgotten how to catch the ball #WALvRSA
— Phil Hutchinson (@phil_hutchinson) October 27, 2019
Well there’s nothing for England to fear from that Boks team. They won’t get much joy playing the same game against England #RSAvENG #RWC2019
— Peter Baldwin (@peterdbaldwin1) October 27, 2019
Quite happy playing South Africa in the Final, but what a game it would have been if it had been Wales. If we play like we did against the All Blacks we’ll win it 🏉 #RWC2019 #WebbEllisCup #England 🏴
— Russ (@blueruss1875) October 27, 2019
To base your game on a kick and chase then rely on the bounce of the ball. Both teams looked better when they decided to not give it away. @EnglandRugby know what to practice for next week. Just don’t get drawn into an arm wrestle with the @Springboks
— Kieran Lilley (@kieran_strides) October 27, 2019
It’s coming home, SA may of won and it wasn’t a comfortable one, if England go guns blazing like yesterday then there’s no reason why it’s not coming home to Twickenham
— Daniel (@akaTheWaspTV) October 27, 2019
Brilliant tactics from South Africa and Wales here. Ensuring that England have absolutely nothing to analyse for the final…
— Robbie Alexander (@ermalex) October 27, 2019
England will absolutely dismantle the Springboks if they keep kicking the ball to them
— Steve Durning (@SDurning1) October 27, 2019
England are favourites going into the final, and rightly so, but fans should not expect them to dismantle the Springboks in the way they did the All Blacks. Jones’ pack were able to assert their dominance physically from minute one in both attack and defence, but against a South African side that has a pack to match, they cannot expect to be as successful.
Meanwhile, in the same way Wales would not have wanted to play the game that they did, there is the danger that England can become subsumed into the kicking game that the Springboks play, which may not necessarily mean they lose, but it will make the match a much closer affair.
With both sides expected to raise their game, and the inevitable nerves of a final, England fans should prepare for a nail biting contest.
As buoyant as the fans and team will be after the win over the All Blacks, it will mean nothing if they do not recreate that level of intensity in the final.
You can watch extended (23 minutes) highlightsof the match below