Te Maumaharatanga – Canterbury’s Commemorative Jersey
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And then there were two. After weeks of competition, England and South Africa are 80 minutes away from determining the rightful owner of the Webb Ellis Cup of 2019. If the final game is to follow the script of the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC), an eventual winner won’t become apparent until that siren sounds for the final time.
Before the match started, it was clear that England came to play. As the All Blacks moved into formation for their traditional haka, England’s players lined up in a V formation. This sent the message to the All Blacks, even before a ball was touched, that England would not be intimidated.
Across the park New Zealand were outplayed. England were thrillingly dominant. They ran hard, tackled harder and pushed the envelope with ambitious offloads. Even with three players looking worse for wear on the injury front, England remained on the front foot.
The All Blacks simply had no answers. As such, New Zealand’s dreams of becoming the first team to win three consecutive Webb Ellis Cups were dashed as they suffered their first RWC defeat in 18 matches. The only consolation? The fact that the 19-7 defeat could have looked much worse had England not been disallowed two tries.
Compared to the events of the first semi-final, the match between Wales and South Africa was relatively tame. Where England took it to the All Blacks through sheer physicality, this match was simply a case of who would crack first.
Wales seemed more anxious not to lose the game than win it. This mentality fed into South Africa’s game plan perfectly. This was a match that contained more kicks than it did minutes. With the ball in hand, Wales offered little in attack. Similarly, their defence was also left wanting.
To their credit, Wales levelled the score three times, but the Springboks’ penalty goal in the 76th minute proved the difference. With a 19-16 victory, South Africa did enough to reach their third tournament decider.
There is a lot on the line in this RWC final. Of course there is the Webb Ellis Cup, but also a piece of history on offer. England are looking to join South Africa and Australia on two RWC victories. While South Africa are aiming to join New Zealand on three RWC titles.
England and South Africa have a playing history that dates back to 1906. By November of 2018, these two teams had faced each other in Test matches 42 times. South Africa lead the series 25 wins to England’s 15, while two matches ended in a draw.
The England and South Africa rivalry really heated up when they faced each other in the 2007 RWC final. On that day, South Africa was able to claim their second title. Turning two finals appearances into two wins.
England has also won a RWC in 2003. However, they have only enjoyed one win from three finals appearances.
The most iconic clash between these two teams has to be the 2007 RWC final. On a night where the rugby was clinical and cautious, South Africa triumphed over England, 15 points to 6 in France.
As the players from each team seemed to tense up under the strain of expectation, this match turned into a game where the ball was repeatedly kicked into the heavens. When England finally gained momentum again, they seemingly ran out of ideas and energy.
This iconic moment will fuel England to try and avenge this defeat by winning the 2019 title. Yet it will also fuel South Africa’s captain Siya Kolisi’s- who watched the 2007 final at a local tavern– desire to win.
For England, the concern will centre around two factors. Firstly, have they already played their final against New Zealand in the semis? Secondly, there’s an injury cloud over key players like Jonny May, Kyle Sinckler and Owen Farrell.
On the back of one of their greatest ever performances, this team will have all the running. The main thing is confidence- something England will have in spades. You can’t win a RWC final without belief and confidence in your own ability. Once players have confidence, they know they can execute a game plan.
For South Africa, the main concern is game plan. A key point that was first raised by Wales coach Warren Gatland. South Africa’s coach Rassie Erasmus countered this by saying that a RWC final isn’t going to be won through an expansive game plan that relies on scoring tries.
The Springbok’s water tight defence, patience and long range goal kicking ability is a recipe for success. Erasmus has confirmed that the 31 man squad is fully fit, allowing him the luxury to pick the best team possible. If South Africa can frustrate England with a rushing defensive line, they will have the fortitude to ice any half opportunities that may arise.
Saturday November 2 marks RWC’s final day. There is only 80 minutes separating both teams from the title and fans won’t want to miss a minute of the action.
For those living in New Zealand, TVNZ will be screening the final live. Expect kick off at 10pm.
For Australians, Channel 10 and Fox Sports will have live coverage of the final, which is set to kick off at 8pm.