A thrilling 2019 Rugby World Cup will finish on Saturday with either England or the Springboks as the victors. England are heavy favourites after demolishing the All Blacks. And, that will suit South Africa just fine after they outmuscled Wales on Sunday.
It feels like a beauty and the beast tussle. Ironic given that England’s style has had its critics over the last 12 months. Whilst England were running the ball constantly over the first twenty minutes against New Zealand, South Africa employed their full metal jacket style over the Welsh.
The Springboks have made no secret that they will adopt exactly the same gameplan for the World Cup Final. Charlie Inglefield previews a number of key clashes and thinks that South Africa is going to need more than brute power to beat England.
Faf de Klerk v Ben Youngs
de Klerk was at his annoying best on Sunday. He was constantly snapping verbally as well as at the heals of Wales for the full 80 minutes. He did his job superbly. It was not just the aerial assault he initiated but also his ability to get behind Wales’ attack. There were a couple of times where he sneaked up on Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams and created the error. de Klerk is a livewire and he is running the show for his monster pack.
Ben Youngs will know what is coming. He has been around long enough to come up against every kind of scrum-half. Youngs had his best game in a long while against the All Blacks. Like his teammates, he was sharp and decisive. Youngs got the ball away quicker from the ruck and his box kicking was more or less spot on. Against de klerk he will need to be aware of when he cannot see him. That is not to insult de Klerk’s height, this is more of a reference to how sneaky the Sale Shark can be to the opposition.
de Klerk has lit up the Gallagher Premiership over the last 18 months. It has been his running game which has been so impressive. England will be delighted that de Klerk’s remit from Rassie Erasmus has been a kicking one. Against Wales, he fired off a huge pass to Makazole Mapimpi that put the Springbok winger into space. It was a reminder of what de Klerk can do when not utilising his boot.
Pieter-Steph Du Toit v Sam Underhill
Du Toit was at the heart of South Africa’s physical battering of Wales. It was like watching a young Schalk Burger tearing around the field and hurling Welsh players backwards. Similar to Underhill, Du Toit plays with a relentless intensity and has a tireless work-rate. On Sunday it was Du Toit who led the Springbok assault with Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi playing the supporting roles.
With Tom Curry and Sam Underhill outstanding again on Saturday against the All Blacks, Du Toit will be charged with the responsibility of halting their momentum. Underhill is no respecter of reputations and he has given England real bite in the tackle. The battle between him and Du Toit is one of a number of fascinating battles to look forward to.
Damian de Allende v Manu Tuilagi
de Allende together with Pieter-Steph Du Toit were South Africa’s best players against Wales. He also has a history against England after his outstanding display over Eddie Jones’ men last November at Twickenham. de Allende is a near-perfect physical specimen with freakish strength that constantly gets him and the Springboks over the gain-line. It’s bad enough when you have South Africa’s pack smashing into you to then have de Allende running down your channel. Dan Biggar found this out on Sunday.
This is why Manu Tuilagi’s return to form and fitness has been a key part of England’s resurgence. Tuilagi will relish the Springboks’ physicality and whoever makes the metres between him and de Allende will have a big outcome to the result of this match.
Eben Etzebeth v Courtney Lawes
Etzebeth and Lawes will be the two enforcers in the final and everyone will be hoping that these two butt heads. Etzebeth’s discipline has been spot on during this World Cup and it could be argued that his game has slightly suffered as a result. When Etzebeth plays on the edge he is truly a destructive force. He has the strength to clear out multiple defenders at the ruck and terrorise the opposition’s scrum-half.
Courtney Lawes has worked his way back into England’s starting line-up and it was his lineout work that really caught the eye against the All Blacks. We, of course, know Lawes more for his brutal tackling and his ability to hit fly-halves (more or less legally). Lawes will be a key man for England in their defensive structure as the likes of Etzebeth look to impose their power upfront.
Kolbe crucial to Springbok chances
It won’t be enough for South Africa to try and pulverise England to win the World Cup. England will know exactly what is coming their way and can prepare for the assault. Even if the Springboks win a few penalties from the maul and scrum, they will need more.
That is why the fitness of Cheslin Kolbe is so important. He is the one man on the South African side who can create a moment of magic that could damage England. I would have added Willie le Roux but he is really struggling to make an impact at the moment. If Kolbe is fit then South Africa have a good chance.
Unless Rassie Erasmus has created the biggest bluff in history, England will know what is coming their way. The challenge for South Africa is that England’s pack are no pushovers and they have better strike power out wide as well as speed.
If England has the kind of possession and territory that they had against New Zealand then surely there can only be one winner? Using the oldest clichés in the book though, World Cup Finals tend to be close affairs and the formbook goes out of the window.
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