Eyes on the prize: England meet South Africa in Rugby World Cup final
Saturday's Rugby World Cup final sees England face the South African Springboks. Both sides are expecting a gruelling defensive battle in the heavyweight showdown in Yokohama, Japan.
"We may have a couple of trick plays on the day but mostly it will stay the same for both sides,” South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard told journalists on Friday, a day ahead of the final of the Rugby World Cup.
The Sprinboks, who beat Wales 19-16 in the semi-final last Sunday, will be pitted against England at Yokohama International Stadium. The white shirts dominated New Zealand’s All Blacks 19-7 in the other semi-final the day before.
This will be a battle between tough, physical defences. And the advantage line will continue to be the key area of focus.
Pollard explained: “It's up to us to stop momentum at the gain line. It will be a line in the sand and we will be trying to stop them getting over it."
England openside flanker Sam Underhill was keen to underline the Boks’ strengths: "They are a pretty big side across the board, in the pack with some good ball carriers, and a big threat at the breakdown.”
He added that England would have to "turn up physically" if they are to be world champions for the second time in their history. Their last World Cup final win was in 2003 against Australia, thanks to a Jonny Wilkinson last-gasp drop goal.
Bok brutes against English elegance?
The "Bok brutes", as some have nicknamed the South Africa players in reference to their height, bulk and physical, confrontational style, will also rely on their pint-sized (5ft7) scrumhalf Faf De Klerk. He summed up his tactics, after the Wales game: "I'm pretty excited when I get a good kick up in the air and I can really start chasing because I know it's a 50-50."
England lock George Kruis said the humiliation inflicted on the side then coached by Stuart Lancaster after they crashed out at the group stage – on their home turf – four years ago had a salutary effect on the current squad.
"It definitely helps that we went through that pain," he added. "It doesn't mean we're owed anything but it will go towards making a difference tomorrow”.
He concluded: "We know what's coming – it's about manning up and dealing with it."
Leading the Rainbow Nation into history, whatever the result
Two-times world champions South Africa, now coached by Rassie Erasmus, will be captained by Siya Kolisi, the first black player to lead the Boks.
Saturday’s final marks a 50th cap for Kolisi, who made his debut for his country in 2013 and took part in the 2015 World Cup where South Africa finished third.
His teammate Tendai Mtawarira pointed out what that meant for the Rainbow Nation: "For a young kid from Zwide township in Port Elizabeth to rise above circumstances and become Springbok captain and lead the way‚ he has just been inspirational to South Africans from all walks of life.”
England will be led by Owen Farrell, who can play at fly-half or inside centre. He will win his 79th cap in an England shirt – on top of his four for the British and Irish Lions.
South Africa edged England 15-6 when the two sides last met in a final – it was in 2007 in Paris. Ironically, England coach Eddie Jones was then technical adviser to Springboks head coach Jake White.