England vs South Africa:Sunday’s semi-final wasn’t the most spectacular of games but my message for England would be not to under-estimate this South African team. They have some very high-quality players, areas of real strength and their entire squad will be lifted and energised by the prospect of a final.
Stuart Barnes has called on South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus to drop skipper Siya Kolisi for the World Cup final against England.
Barnes believes the game plan that saw the Springboks squeak into the final with a 19-16 win over Wales will not be enough to topple England, especially in the back row.
Sometimes you have got to make substitutions and we took a captain off, that’s the way it is,” Barnes said.
The Boks’ set-piece will be the strongest England will have faced at this World Cup, and off the back of that everything goes through Faf de Klerk at scrum-half, who is their conductor-in-chief.
He likes the box kick — does he ever — but we have all seen him star for Sale and he has another dimension up his sleeve. Watching club colleague Tom Curry mark De Klerk will be fascinating and he will be very alert to his sniping breaks which he kept under wraps on Sunday.
South Africa to win the World Cup have got to start competing better at the breakdown. They are going to have to turnover ball.
“Does that mean Malcolm Marx starts and the other question is can they leave Francois Louw out because Louw does that time after time after time.
“When you look at Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje England have got a fantastic turnover game.
“It asks the question Siya Kolisi is a magnificent leader and he stands up for so much in South Africa, but I think Francois Louw is a better openside than Siya Kolisi.
That poses an imponderable question for Erasmus.”
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South Africa grinded Wales into the dust to scrape home with a deadlock breaking penalty goal in the 76th minute of the semi-final.
However Barnes believes it won’t be enough to challenge England in the final unless they drastically alter their playing style and tactics.
But it won’t because England are playing a different modern brand of rugby. South Africa can’t play as they did tonight if they want to win the World Cup.
The Boks also have try-scoring potential out wide. Their back three have some gas and we wait to hear if there is any chance of key man Cheslin Kolbe returning form injury for the final.
ut to my eyes their big weakness is a lack of creativity in midfield. Damian de Allende is a strong runner — he battered his way through impressively for his try — but England have already shown they can cut down strong runners all day long. England can absorb that approach easily and turn such players over at will.
The other huge takeaway is that England are capable of playing at a pace and tempo that could completely take the final away from South Africa.
England’s preparation this week is all about getting that mental mindset right again and I was very encouraged with their determination to ‘park’ the win over New Zealand quickly on Saturday.
Before the Wales game I was chatting with Richie McCaw who was hugely complimentary about England, but he made the very pertinent point about ‘going again’ after an outstanding semi-final win.
In 2011 his New Zealand side were excellent in putting a good Aussie team away in their semi-final but seven days later they barely struggled over the line against a French team who had scraped past 14-man Wales in their semi-final. Backing up is unquestionably the key for England.
It was the same in 2003. In the England camp we enjoyed one of our most impressive ever performances in the semi-final when we despatched France with consummate ease but a week later back at the same ground we found life much more difficult against a pumped-up Australia.
Relive 1 NEWS NOW’s live updates of tonight’s Rugby World Cup semi-final between South Africa and Wales in Yokohama, Japan.
The play-off match for third place is tricky — there have been a few duds over the years — but occasionally they spark up as was the case with France and Argentina in 2007.
Given that both Warren and Steve are signing off from their roles on Friday night, and given that there is no such thing as a meaningless ‘friendly’ between Wales and New Zealand, we might yet be in for a treat.
If any game can rise above the gloom that sometimes surrounds these play-off matches it will be a spirited encounter between two of the proudest rugby nations on the planet.
I am confident that Friday night’s game will be a true celebration of rugby that fans of all nations will enjoy and that would be in keeping with the whole atmosphere of this memorable World Cup.