It’s been a long week already, and the days leading up to the Rugby World Cup Final has taken what seems an age. Still not as boring as South Africa’s Semi-Final against Wales, though.
Majority of the people I supervise at work have constantly been trying to get a reaction out of me by asking me “how I will feel once England lose.” While smiling through gritted teeth, I was not going to drop down to their level, which is what I hope England can learn from going into the final today, against South Africa. Being an avid rugby fan, surrounded by South African’s is not an ideal scenario for anyone, especially if England happen to lose. If the taunts are anything to go by now, then it’s not even worth thinking about the possibility of what it might be like post defeat.
Do South Africa have a chance of victory?
Obviously they do, but not if they play the same as they did against Wales. A kicking game is what the Springboks always seem to prefer. However, as many people witnessed against New Zealand, England attack with excellent flare and force. Continuously giving England the ball will be begging for a defeat. After all, England have three world class kickers in Owen Farrell (Captain and Outside Centre), George Ford (Fly-half) and Elliot Daly (Full-back). Scrum-half Ben Youngs, albeit not as good as the aforementioned players, can put a good foot to the ball, too. Despite being outnumbered in terms of kickers, I am very confident that South Africa will still play a kicking game, as they don’t really know what else to do. That will force them further and further back into their own half.
I can already see it…
Faf De Klerk kicks, Daly collects, England run it, and then kick deep into the South African half putting the heavily criticised Willie Le Roux under pressure. He will likely run into a gargantuan wall, before Faf De Klerk kicks again, but this time, England retrieve inside the South African half. This will lead to relentless pressure, and eventually a large lead.
Can South Africa play the running game?
Absolutely, but not as well as the English. Makazole Mpimbi is very fast, and Cheslin Kolbe is back too, yet they are no match for the English backs. The latter is definitely the bigger threat despite being outscored by his teammate throughout the tournament. I feel that Mpimbi is very lightweight, and doesn’t have the strength to defend or push past Jonny May or Anthony Watson.
What’s South Africa’s best chance?
They have to beat England in the scrum and the breakdown, which is where New Zealand failed in the semi-final. Not only that, England players managed to win quite a few of the opposition line-outs which is not very common against the All-Blacks (New Zealand).
So, why am I still concerned?
This is the World Cup Final. Any result is possible, and South Africa, in my opinion, came into the tournament as the third best team in the tournament (behind England and New Zealand). The Springboks are a team that will grind a result when needed, and they will make the game messy if needed. There’s a lot of know-how in that team, especially with captain Siya Kolisi (South Africa’s first ever black captain), and Locks Eben Etzebeth and Lodewyk De Jager.
In addition, the recent meetings have been tense affairs with both teams winning twice during the four meetings in 2018. The last of those was a year ago tomorrow, in which the English won (12-11). I’m not sure a similar game would be good for the hearts of many fans.
So, whether you are cheering for the strawberries and cream eating, milk tea drinking, God save the Queen singing English, or the delusional other team, by the end of the Rugby World Cup, it’s undeniable that the tournament itself and World Rugby are the true winners. What a tournament, What a host nation and, (hopefully) what a finale!