Rugby World Cup Final Preview: England v South Africa5 min read
England stand just one victory away from their second World Cup triumph with a showdown against South Africa in Saturday’s final.
England demolish All Blacks
England were unstoppable in their brilliant semi-final victory against New Zealand. The All Blacks were unbeaten in the World Cup for 12 years but their hopes of lifting the trophy for a third successive time were ended last weekend.
Eddie Jones masterminded an exceptional performance with England’s relentless approach making New Zealand look average. Manu Tuilagi set the tone with a second-minute try and England dominated the entire match with 19-7 flattering the beaten champions.
It was a phenomenal display, which has rightly installed them as favourites for the final, but England cannot just expect to reproduce this calibre of performance. If they do though, it will be extremely difficult for South Africa to stop them.
England have selected the same team for the Yokohama final with captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler all passed fit to play.
Springboks kick their way to final
South Africa have certainly not been as pleasing on the eye but Rassie Erasmus’ side have been mightily effective.
The Springboks are bidding to become the first team to lose and go on to win the World Cup after their opening defeat to New Zealand.
South Africa progressed as runners-up before ending Japan’s run in the quarter-finals of the competition.
In the semi-finals, the Springboks were involved in a huge physical scrap against Wales. Handre Pollard’s accuracy with the boot proved crucial as South Africa edged to a 19-16 win.
It was an ugly victory though, with their emphasis on kicking for territory forcing penalties against their opponents. South Africa’s physical strength is a huge asset but the team appear reluctant at times to make full use of their individual flair in the backline.
The Springboks make just one change to their semi-final team with speedy wing Cheslin Kolbe returning, after recovering from his ankle injury, in place of Sbu Nkosi.
Erasmus has rigidly sticked to this limited gameplan and insists this will be the case again in the Yokohama final. But will this be enough to deny a peaking England?
England to edge close final
The recent clashes between the teams have been close with two wins apiece. The Springboks won the 2018 home series 2-1 before England secured a nervy 12-11 win at Twickenham last November.
England appear to have made more progress since last year though and, with their confidence soaring after the All Blacks win, look best equipped to win this final.
Their intensity, from the outset, could be a crucial factor and their high tempo can put pressure on the Springboks. England are fancied to cover a two-point first-half handicap.
Any suggestion though that they will steamroller this South Africa team looks unlikely and a narrow England win looks the best bet.
These are two of the best defensive teams in the world and the attritional Springboks will make it extremely difficult for England to break through. This is likely to be a low-scoring final and tries could be scarce.
But the greater variety in England’s team, from the likes of Billy Vunipola to Manu Tuilagi, should make the difference in a tight contest.
Two of the last four World Cup finals have been settled by no more than three points and England are backed to edge past South Africa by up to seven points.
England to win by one to seven points
England -2.5 points to win the first-half handicap