England v South Africa: Four classics
WORLD CUP FINAL SPOTLIGHT: When England and South Africa face off in Yokohama on Saturday, it will be the latest chapter in a history of classic encounters on the game’s biggest stage.
AFP Sport looks back at their four previous World Cup matches, with the Springboks ahead in the series 3-1.
Monty’s match: 2007 Final
The two sides have met in the final once before, in 2007, when Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery outkicked England legend Jonny Wilkinson to secure a try-less 15-6 victory in the Stade de France in Paris.
England fans still claim that wing Mark Cueto should have been awarded a try early in the second half that would have given them the lead. However, the Television Match Official ruled that Cueto’s left boot had grazed the touchline and disallowed it.
The English had long periods of possession towards the end and battered the Springbok defences but South Africa held firm to claim their second Webb Ellis Cup, 12 years after their famous 1995 win in front of Nelson Mandela.
Another dozen years on, the Boks will be hoping that the ‘rule of 12’ also applies to 2019.
Strangely, current England coach Eddie Jones had a hand in the Springbok victory that day, acting as technical advisor to head coach Jake White.
Wilkinson’s drops: 2003 pool match
Wilkinson gave the world a preview of what they could expect in the 2003 final with two drop goals that pulled England away from the Springboks in a 25-6 Pool C victory in Perth.
England centre Will Greenwood scored the only try of the match after flanker Lewis Moody charged down a clearance kick, controlling the ball brilliantly with his feet before diving over for the score.
The metronomic Wilkinson added four penalties to his drop goals, with only two penalties from fly-half Louis Koen in return for the Springboks.
After the pool defeat, South Africa would go on to qualify second from the pool, meaning a match-up with New Zealand in the quarterfinal, which the All Blacks won 29-9.
It turned out to be England’s year, their only World Cup win so far, after they beat Australia in the final with another drop goal from Wilkinson in extra time.
De Beer stunner: 1999 quarterfinal
A quite extraordinary display of drop-kicking by flyhalf Jannie de Beer saw South Africa clinch the 1999 quarter-final 44-21 – including a world record five drop-goals.
It was a match dominated by kicking with a dearth of free-flowing rugby but it was close at half-time, the Springboks sneaking ahead 16-12 by virtue of a controversial try by legendary scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen, which England said was in touch.
But then de Beer embarked on his astonishing run of drop-goals, seemingly trying for the posts whenever South Africa were in England’s half and with staggering accuracy.
He finished with a perfect goal-kicking record of two conversions, five penalties and five drop-goals – a total of 34 points – and even contributed to South Africa’s second try as Pieter Rossouw latched on to his towering up-and-under.
Bagel in Paris: 2007 pool match
Before the final in 2007, the two teams met in a pool match, with the Springboks running out massive 36-0 winners – a dreadful start to the defending champions’ campaign, and presaging South Africa’s second title.
Wing JP Pietersen touched down for two tries to add to a sixth-minute score from flanker Juan Smith, all converted by Percy Montgomery.
Montgomery kicked four out of four penalties and Francois Steyn also bagged a penalty to pour further misery on England in one of their worst-ever World Cup defeats.
England bounced back to come second in the group and squeezed past Australia and France to reach the final.
Arguably South Africa’s pool win gave them the edge in the final, as by winning the pool, they had a much easier route through, taking on Fiji and Argentina.