Rugby World Cup 2023: England face day of reckoning towards South Africa

Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje, who has confronted South Africa 10 earlier instances in his profession, has urged England to grab the day of their World Cup semi-final
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Dates: Saturday, 21 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Protection: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Stay, plus textual content updates on the BBC Sport web site and app.

The phoney battle is nearly over.

England are the one staff by means of to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals with a 100% report, progressing with 5 wins from 5 video games.

They’re unbeaten, however not undoubted.

Victories over Argentina, Japan, Chile, Samoa and Fiji have stored England’s marketing campaign purring steadily ahead. Not all of the wins have been convincing, however on every event they’ve ended up on the precise facet of the scoreline.

The caveat is that they’ve additionally been on the precise facet of the draw.

On Saturday night time, the velvet rope drops they usually bash shoulders with the match’s massive rollers.

South Africa – the defending champions, who enacted their very own Parisian revolution final weekend by deposing the hosts – have lengthy set the form of requirements to which England coach Steve Borthwick’s males aspire.

The Springboks are a staff of gargantuan energy and exhilarating tempo, whose patterns run alongside well-worn grooves. They’ll overwhelm opponents with diesel grunt up the center or out-gas them with tempo out large.

Former coach Eddie Jones’ try so as to add dimensions to England in the end folded flat. After the final Rugby World Cup and that painful remaining defeat by South Africa, he hoped to mould a staff that might change tack and flip techniques mid-match.

As an alternative the transition was fumbled and it was the victors who succeeded in augmenting their repertoire.

Jacques Nienaber, Rassie Erasmus, Mzwandile Stick – a long-standing teaching brains belief – take the credit score for that. They’ve had the time that Borthwick, appointed on the finish of final yr, hasn’t. And so they have spent it properly.

Since Japan 2019, they’ve overseen a gradual evolution of their backline, bringing by means of playmakers Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse and elevating sevens specialist Kurt-Lee Arendse into the Take a look at recreation.

Within the forwards, their deployment of game-changing affect replacements within the entrance row has modified the best way Take a look at rugby is performed. And, whereas others have talked in regards to the idea of hybrid gamers, they turned it into actuality.

Saturday’s alternative hooker is Deon Fourie. The 37-year-old transformed from entrance row to again row almost a decade in the past, however, at this late stage in his profession, he has reverted again to permit the Boks to hold further cowl elsewhere within the squad.

The element within the Boks’ recreation runs to reams of such small print and footnotes. England, by Borthwick’s admission, are working to a less complicated plan, hoping their headline strengths are punchy sufficient to make up the distinction.

Whether or not they can or not divides opinion.

One Rugby World Cup winner – Joel Stransky – stated he would “fall over backwards” in shock if South Africa lose.

One other – Will Greenwood – can be much less shocked by an England win.

“They’ve been constructing in direction of this,” stated the previous England centre in regards to the present facet.

“They won’t go quietly into the night time. If South Africa win it, they must be fabulous.”

The notion hole is stuffed with imponderables.

How a lot did that tussle with France bodily and emotionally drain South Africa, who’re unchanged for his or her assembly with England?

How a lot perception has constructed behind the scenes of England’s siege mentality?

If the rain falls as forecast, would possibly a saturated taking part in discipline be a extra stage one?

Come Saturday night, we are going to know.

If England win, their declare to be severe contenders for the trophy will likely be instantly and vividly realised. The doubters and detractors will likely be answered and the plaudits totally deserved. Borthwick’s religion in his facet and his type will likely be vindicated in type.

Lose although – particularly by a large margin – and people pretensions crumble to mud and ashes.

Both means, England’s day of reckoning has arrived. South Africa will take them to beforehand unknown rugby altitudes, the brutal heights the place titles are determined.

It is time to step up or stand down.

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