South Africa deserves all the plaudits after systematically destroying England to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final. England will be devastated. They were a shadow of the team we saw down the All Blacks a week earlier.
Rassie Erasmus won the battle of the coaches as England were outthought and outmuscled. The Springboks were tactically spot on. Their scrummaging and power game dominated England’s forwards and Handré Pollard ran the show at fly-half. As for England, it is back to the drawing board but they can take plenty of positives from this World Cup.
Pollard dominates Ford and Farrell
Handré Pollard rather like the Springbok team has flown under the radar in this World Cup. On Saturday Pollard completely dominated George Ford and led his team expertly around the park. It was not just his kicking which did the damage, Pollard’s running cut through England on a number of occasions.
Like so many England players it just did not happen for George Ford in the final. He had no quick ball to work with and every time he looked up to pass there was a huge South African in his way. Owen Farrell did his best as ever but a crucial missed penalty for a potential 15-12 deficit will anger him as England tried to get back into the game.
Cole and Vunipola battered at the scrum
England’s set-piece was a disaster against the Springboks. The lineout which had been so strong all tournament and particularly against the All Blacks went awry. The early loss of Kyle Sinckler did not help but Dan Cole and Mako Vunipola were completely destroyed by the ‘Beast’ Tendai Mtawarira and Frans Malherbe. Joe Marler improved England’s scrum when he came on but by then it was too late.
Eddie Jones knew what was coming his way but England had no answer to the power of the Springboks. They lost the collisions and the likes of Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola were knocked back with ease. It was a chastening day for England’s forwards and one that they will want to forget in a hurry.
de Klerk wins the battle of the nines
It was not quite the battle we were hoping for but Faf de Klerk won the battle of the scrum-halves. Ben Youngs had a horrible day at the office, firing passes into no-man’s land and giving England’s backs little chance on the gain line. Along with England’s game, Youngs looked nervous and indecisive and this played right into South Africa’s hands. To be fair to Youngs, he had no decent ball to play with as his pack went backwards.
de Klerk was de Klerk. He bossed his forwards and did the basics extremely well. de Klerk’s box kicking did not go far but allowed the likes of Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am to compete. As a result, it was the Springboks who won the 50/50 contests. de Klerk has been a key cog in South Africa’s run to the title.
Vermeulen takes down Vunipola
Duane Vermeulen was a colossus for South Africa and was rightly named man of the match. He is a brute of a man and was at the heart of South Africa’s power game that England got nowhere near to stopping. South Africa’s back row scragged England at every turn, none more so when England was camped on the South African line just before half time. Time and again England crashed into Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit and got absolutely nowhere.
England needed Billy Vunipola at his best on Saturday but he made little yardage. Vermeulen, on the other hand, was everywhere. Always willing to take the first carry, South Africa’s Thor smashed into England and made valuable metres. Vermeulen was also a constant nuisance at the breakdown where South Africa again had dominance. Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were nullified by the power of the Springbok back row.
Kolisi and Erasmus inspire South Africa
Even the most ardent England fan could not have been a little bit teary watching Siya Kolisi lift the World Cup. His story which was widely covered in the media during the week leading up to the tournament is a special one. Raised in a township in Port Elizabeth with nothing, parents too young to care for him, Kolisi is now one of the most important public figures in South Africa. He is the first black captain to raise the trophy. Along with Rassie Erasmus, they are symbols of hope and progression in South Africa.
As Eddie Jones said in his post-match conference he was not sure why England lost so convincingly. One sensed that South Africa led by Siya Kolisi dared not lose. They were relentless and brutal but organised and decisive. Every squad player knew their roles. Class acts like Schalk Brits, the 38-year-old ensured that the supporting cast did everything they could to prepare the starting fifteen.
Where to now for England?
The inquest into why England was so poor in the final will go on for a few weeks. That should not detract from what a good tournament they have had. There is much to look forward to in the coming years given the age spread across this current squad. There will be a slight changing of the guard as befitting the end of a four-year cycle and it will be interesting to see where Eddie Jones fits into that.
It so happens that outgoing Wales coach Warren Gatland was spot on when saying that England may have played their final against New Zealand. Players like George Ford, Courtney Lawes, and Elliot Daly, had the best games of their careers against the All Blacks. Seven days later they had the worst games of their careers. It happens and they will learn from it.
Eddie Jones’ strategy was spot on against the Wallabies and the All Blacks but was off against South Africa. The ‘no fear’ policy he outlined during the week would surely not have included running the ball from your own line in the first 20 minutes. That is what a World Cup Final occasion and nerves can do. We were criticising Australia for doing it in the quarter-final and yet here was England doing it in the World Cup Final. England was pushing and dropping passes that they weren’t doing last week. So many errors came from England’s half allowing South Africa to dominate territory and possession.
2019 Rugby World Cup Final winners
— Last Word on Rugby (@LWOSRugby) November 2, 2019
Congratulations to South Africa for winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final. Thoroughly deserved.
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