Rugby World Cup: How England can upset the percentages and beat South Africa

Manu Tuilagi scores a try against South Africa in November 2021
Manu Tuilagi scored England’s first strive of their most up-to-date win over South Africa, a November 2021 success at Twickenham
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.

As Steve Borthwick thought-about the prospect of a formidable South Africa facet, he was clear.

“It is an unlimited bodily problem. Our forwards have to supply the very best performances they’ll. We have to strive issues and play the sport a unique method.”

It might simply be 2023. As an alternative it’s from eight years earlier, when Borthwick had cherry blossom on his chest fairly a pink rose, and Japan had been making ready to tackle the Springboks in Brighton on the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

4 days later, Japan dropped jaws all over the world with a 34-32 upset.

Borthwick is now England head coach, fairly than Japan’s forwards coach.

A victory for his facet in Saturday’s semi-final wouldn’t be a shock of the identical magnitude. However South Africa, who ousted hosts France last weekend, are justifiably heavy favourites.

Nevertheless, as soon as once more, Borthwick has a plan. His star quantity eight Ben Earl refused to divulge details, however promised it was “actually thrilling” and “performs to our strengths”.

So how would possibly Borthwick and his group shock the Boks as soon as extra?

Personal the air

Freddie Steward claims a high ball playing against South Africa
Freddie Steward’s prowess within the air has been a part of the explanation behind his being voted England’s participant of the yr for the previous two seasons

Precedence primary. France conceded three first-half tries after South Africa’s kicking recreation had created backfield chaos.

On the primary Gael Fickou, sightlines blocked by the hulking Eben Etzebeth, failed to assert Cobus Reinach’s box-kick and Kurt Lee-Arendse feasted on the scraps.

On the second, Cameron Woki juggled a Manie Libbok crossfield bomb into the grateful arms of Damian de Allende.

On the third, Jesse Kriel poked a grubber into large, open house for Cheslin Kolbe to scamper in.

Three tries, 19 factors and only a three-point deficit after France had dominated different metrics by far wider margins.

“France within the first half, with the ball, had been completely unbelievable,” said former England international Paul Grayson on the BBC’s Rugby Union Daily podcast.

“However South Africa had finished nothing and received three tries, which I would not say they got by France however they will surely go down as assists.

“England must cope with it. Your backfield protection and defusing something that goes into the air must be spectacular. That must be error-free, dominant and controlling the airwaves.”

Marcus Smith, who has been a thrilling, novel full-back choice for England on the match, was unavailable to Borthwick, having failed a return-to-play take a look at after their win over Fiji.

However Freddie Steward was at all times the most effective resolution to stem the movement of factors that dashed French hopes.

Eight inches taller than Smith and with a monitor document as a specialist, he shall be key to nullifying South Africa’s kick-to-compete ploy in assault.

Borthwick can also ponder whether or not the Boks are susceptible to their very own tactic. Arendse and Kolbe could have the sting on Jonny Might and Elliot Daly for velocity however, at 5ft 10in and 5ft 7in respectively, they’re giving up peak.

Might England isolate them in aerial contests on assault?

Keep away from the scrum

South Africa dominate England's scrum at the Rugby World Cup 2019
South Africa’s superiority on the scrum was a key a part of their win within the 2019 Rugby World Cup closing

Borthwick has picked Joe Marler and George Martin to strengthen the scrum. However towards the Springboks, harm limitation, fairly than domination, is the purpose.

South Africa’s set-piece energy and energy in depth is the most effective on this planet.

“You have to steer clear of the scrum,” mentioned Grayson.

“For those who make errors, as in you knock the ball on and provides the opposition an opportunity to say themselves within the scrum as a result of they’re accountable for it, you are going to be underneath the pump.”

The template for this a part of the gameplan already exists.

England’s final win over South Africa, again in November 2021, got here amid a front-row disaster.

Ellis Genge was sick. Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie had been injured. Marler was solely match sufficient for a alternative position after a bout of Covid.

As an alternative the inexperienced mixture of Bevan Rodd, Jamie Blamire and Kyle Sinckler packed down from the beginning.

England suffered at instances within the scrum, notably within the second half as South Africa emptied the bench, however they prevailed 27-26.

“We needed to field intelligent,” said Marler, a 49th minute replacement in that match, afterwards.

“You have to discover methods to adapt. You have to discover methods to battle fireplace with fireplace at instances and entrance up, but additionally play to our strengths and skills. We needed to try to transfer the ball extra.”

With rain forecast on Saturday night, Grayson believes England will transfer it by way of the boot, shopping for territory on the expense of possession.

“England must do away with the ball earlier than they make a mistake,” he added.

“Play sufficient to get your self on the entrance foot and into an honest place, put your boot via the ball, and drive the Springboks to play out from deeper.”

Again your health

Aled Walters and Steve Borthwick
Head coach Steve Borthwick (proper) satisfied Aled Walters to hitch him at Leicester earlier than the pair turned a part of the England set-up

Limiting scrums, and their inevitable resets, raises the tempo.

France had South Africa on the again foot initially of their quarter-final by conserving the ball in play, various their level of assault and turning defenders with intelligent kicks.

Run down the batteries of South Africa’s beginning pack, drive their front-row ‘Bomb Squad’ replacements off the bench early and negate one in every of their essential strengths. That is the speculation.

Aled Walters ought to know the truth higher than most. The Welsh energy and conditioning coach was within the Springbok camp on the final Rugby World Cup, however is now a part of England’s set-up.

He despatched England into their warm-up matches for the match on the again of heavy coaching, hoping that sluggish performances in the summertime would repay with vitality deep into matches within the autumn.

South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus steered earlier within the week that that his employees had cannily managed their gamers’ workloads by switching up choice throughout the pool levels.

He hinted they could do extra of the identical within the semi-final. Then, on Thursday, South Africa named an unchanged XV from their draining encounter with France.

“I did not see that coming,” said former South Africa skipper Bobby Skinstad on Rugby Union Daily. “I used to be shocked. He has received quite a lot of superb gamers to select from and it was an extremely bodily quarter-final.

“I do not know the analytics on every participant and I’m positive every of them is begging to be picked, however I assumed possibly some guys deserved a little bit of a breather.”

Walters’ opinion on whether or not his former employers have gotten that decision proper could be fascinating.

Perceive the officers

Ben O'Keeffe
Ben O’Keeffe has been the main target of some scrutiny since his efficiency in South Africa’s win over France final weekend

Referees do not often become involved within the match-week media rounds. Ben O’Keeffe has needed to.

The New Zealander was criticised by France’s captain Antoine Dupont within the wake of South Africa’s win. Dupont mentioned the Springboks had slowed up ruck ball and that he was not sure O’Keeffe’s efficiency “was as much as the extent of what was at stake”.

O’Keeffe has been gracious in return. “Feedback that gamers could make… they’ll do this after the sport. Within the warmth of battle, issues are mentioned. I am positive every thing’s tremendous,” he said. external-link

Erasmus has been on a social-media allure offensive throughout the match, praising O’Keeffe for his refereeing of their pool-stage defeat by Irelandexternal-link and claiming his team are humbly listening to officials to learn moreexternal-link.

As we noticed in the aftermath the controversial series win over the British and Irish Lions in 2021, although, coaches additionally talk privately with the officers within the build-up to a giant match.

“We all know that there are channels for head coaches and administrators of rugby to make representations to World Rugby about issues they need to see within the recreation and the way they need to see it officiated,” defined BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones.

“Steve Borthwick cannot be outsmarted right here. He cannot let Rassie Erasmus have World Rugby on velocity dial all week and he simply stays away from it.

“He has to verify he isn’t complaining about issues after the sport. He has to get on the entrance foot.”

The breakdown, the place Tom Curry and Ben Earl will look to beat the South Africa again row to the ball, is perhaps a specific subject of curiosity.

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