Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Date: Saturday, November 2, 2019
Twelve years on from the last time these two teams met in a World Cup final, England and South Africa are set to lock horns in Tokyo with the destination of the Webb Ellis Cup at stake.
England would be a more traditional winner of this competition as they are undefeated after rolling through the likes of Argentina in pool play, before taking down Australia with ease in the quarter-final. In the semi-final, England beat New Zealand in a way few saw coming. The final score was 19-7, but it was a game that England could legitimately have won by 30 points had a few decisions – and mistakes – gone their way. This is a team in top form.
South Africa would become the first team to win the World Cup with a defeat on their record if they beat England on Saturday. Their pool play defeat at the hands of the All Blacks sent them on a path to beat Japan – with a tactical masterclass – in the quarter-final. They then broke Welsh hearts 19-16 in the semi-final. A South African win would also break the curse of the Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship winners having never followed up their triumph in that competition with a World Cup win.
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England have named an unchanged team from the one that beat New Zealand as they look to complete a dominant World Cup campaign. That means that Kyle Sinkler, leading try-scorer Jonny May, and captain Owen Farrell have all been passed fit after their bruising semi-final win.
The lineup means that Farrell will against start at No. 12, with George Ford being given the fly-half spot. It is a combination that Eddie Jones has used for most of this tournament, with Ford impressing with his control of the team in the semi-final as Farrell gutted it out with his injury.
The English pack – and the back row – will be vital to how this game plays out. Flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill might be the form forwards in the competition. with Mauro Itojie looking to mix power on power with the South African tight five.
The Springboks will be boosted by the return of world-class winger Cheslin Kolbe for the World Cup final. Kolbe will replace S’bu Nkosi on the right win, giving the ‘Boks a dangerous and powerful playmaker that England will have to game plan for on that side of the park.
Head coach Rassie Erasmus has against opted for a six forward/two backs split on his bench, with Frans Steyn – the only survivor from 2007’s showpiece game – covering pretty much all the positions behind the scrum.
The lineup choice is telling, with Erasmus picking all his forwards in preparation for a physical battle. South Africa will not break away from their style in this tournament to date, with most of their play coming off of the scrum-half position as they look to overpower England. Having six fresh forwards on the bench to come on and add impact is important to this strategy.
England have been installed as 5.5 point favourites for the World Cup with BetXChange. This feels about right as England have been excellent in this tournament so far, but they have historically struggled against the physical nature of South Africa in big games. I like England to win but for South Africa to keep it close. A home team winning margin of 1-10 at 1.40 seems like a solid play as South Africa will look to put points on the board at any opportunity.