The final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be a rematch of the final played twelve years ago in France.
England, who has barnstormed through the Southern Hemisphere, beating Australia and then New Zealand in consecutive weeks, will look to complete the SANZAR trifecta by beating South Africa in the big one.
If this game was played six weeks ago, most fans would lean towards South Africa as the favourites; however, after sneaking past a feisty Japan and under performing against a lackluster Welsh team, the Boks have lost some of their shine. Last night vs Wales was as Rod Kafer put it, ‘one for the purists.’ A real slog of a match that were the highlight was some astounding last ten-minute defence from the South Africans. The defence, but certainly not the offence, is what the Boks will have to hang their hat on heading into next week.
On the other side of the ballot, Eddie Jones will no-doubt be in the ears of the English players to keep their intensity. He has been to a final before, coaching the Wallabies, and knows that it will be a different cup of tea. England has played far better opposition in the knock-out stages and are a risk for an intensity let down after beating the Kiwis on Saturday.
England toured South Africa last year where they split the series two-two and only three points separated two teams over the four games.
WHAT WILL MATTER
Du Toit vs Curry and Underhill
In recent history, great teams have had great Breakaways. The era of McCaw and Smith established this. For England, the younger, bouncier version of Pocock and Hooper – Curry and Underhill – have looked astounding. England forced fifteen turnovers against a New Zealand team that has prided itself on ball security. On Sunday night Du Toit looked like he could reply with some force of his own. He was a menace at the breakdown and George Ford will be envisioning him screaming off the side of the scrum like a gym obsessed boy band member all week.
Both sides have solid set pieces, but the Springboks will home to dominate at the scrum. Of all the areas of the game that Eddie Jones has improved England in, the scrum is the only thing that has lapsed from the last era of English Rugby. On Saturday biggest play of the game against Wales was a forced penalty in the final scrum of the night. The Boks have built an identity behind the Beast and to win this game they will have to start here.
Ford vs Pollard. It’s a bit of a snore, but it’s what we’ve got. Both are good flyhalves to have in a World Cup final – non-offensive and good off the boot, unlikely to make major mistakes. That said, if one of these guys steps it up and wildly outperforms his counterpart with the ball in hand, they could win this match. Ford is less likely to do this, considering in offence he is more a space maker for Farrell at inside center, but he also has more weapons out wide. When it comes to scoring, South Africa will rely heavily on Pollard.
Faf De Klerk’s kicking game
Faf was brilliant last night. Bordering on best on field. His shallow box kicks and cheeky touch finders are the perfect complement to Pollard’s even keeled, traditional boot.
If the group stages proved one thing for the South Africans, it’s that Cheslin Kolbe is the real deal. He’s the star of the show, the brie on the cheeseboard. If he is to return this weekend, he could be an antidote to the giant scoring machines that England have on the outside.