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South Africa v England - teams and prediction

SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Can South Africa, after the emotional high of beating France last week, elevate their game to the standard required against the only unbeaten team at the World Cup, England?

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That is the burning question ahead of the replay of the 2019 Final.

Yes, they have met twice since Yokohama 2019 and it is one-all.

However, England is under new management and they have the bulk of the team that will carry some residual resentment towards the Springboks.

The two teams have had contrasting runs-ins to the play-offs – South Africa in the toughest of pools and England arriving in the knock-out stages with a relatively ‘soft landing’.

South Africa does have the ‘advantage’ of some really tough, physical pool matches – Scotland, Ireland and Tonga – as well as the brutal quarterfinal against France.

That is why coach Jacques Nienaber believes his policy of ‘rotating’ the players will benefit the team in the closing stages of the tournament.

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“The World Cup is a long tournament,” he told @rugby365com.

“The majority of the group who played in the quarterfinal also played against Ireland.

“If you talk about physicality, our players told us the Tonga game was one of the most physical they had played in.

“So the one group got nicely exposed to it against Ireland, and the others got exposed to it against Tonga.”

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He added that physicality, like any conditioning component, is all about getting used to the level of intensity.

“Obviously the French game was physical, but our policy is if you can’t train on Monday, you can’t play,” Nienaber said, adding: “Everyone was good and ready to train, so we got a nice stimulus from a physical point of view against France.

“We will need that experience [of physical outings] going into England, because if you look at their performances, they are improving every game, they are getting better.”

(Article continues below video preview of the semifinal …)

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Asked what aspects of their game are most threatening, he likened them to France.

“Like the French, they have a unique kicking game.

“They are comfortable not playing with the ball.

“They like to strangle you, kick the ball in your half, apply the pressure and wait for you to make a mistake.

“From a tactical point of view, we know what’s coming and we just need to make sure we execute on the day.”

Nienaber admitted the new coaching team, headed by Steve Borthwick, poses different challenges to the Boks from their most recent encounters.

“Steve [Borthwick] has embedded a new game model that was different to the previous one under Eddie [Jones].

“Like anything, it takes some time to get used to and comfortable.

“I think the more time they have spent together, the more comfortable they are with it.”

Borthwick believes he knows exactly what South Africa will throw at them in Paris.

“[They ask] a great deal of questions, as you would expect from the No.1 side in the world,” the England coach said.

“They’ve got that traditional set-piece power that they’ve had for a long time.

“Their contestable kicking game is another great strength.

“One thing they’ve layered to their game over this last four years has been their ball movement and the speed they have on the edges.

“They also have a squad that is jam-packed full of power and size.

“They’ve got players coming off the bench who are very strong.

“We’ve got a pretty strong team as well. We’ve got a pretty strong bench.”

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Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is not concerned about any residual animosity from England over the 2019 Final )won 32-12 by South Africa), or the Bok win at Twickenham (27-13).

“Lots of their players were there and want to prove something,” Kolisi said.

“They have improved compared to before the World Cup.

“You can see the intent, the workrate, the aggression they have around the field.

“It’s a completely different team, that’s why they are the only unbeaten team in the tournament.”

He said they are ‘looking within’ for motivation.

“They will have their motives and so will we which is constant – to play for one another, for the jersey and the people back home.

“The rivalry has been around long before my time.

“They play hard. Even after the World Cup final, we lost the next game [27-26 at Twickenham in November 2021] so it’s always tough to play against them.

“We don’t play them all the time, it’s rare that we get to play them so it’s always a big game.”

Eng v SA team kits

Players to watch

For South Africa: Nienaber has named an unchanged matchday 23, the most experienced in Springbok history. The selection boasts a combined total of 895 caps, with 15 of the 23 having played the 2019 World Cup Final against England, which the Boks won 32-12. Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach are again named as halfbacks for the game in Paris, with World Cup winners Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk on the bench. Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel start in midfield, with a back three of Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Damian Willemse. Up front, you will look to old hands like Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, and Franco Mostert behind them, the skipper Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen. Eight of the team started against England in the 2019 Final, while another seven other players from that match are also in the 23.

For England: Freddie Steward was recalled at fullback as Borthwick made three changes to the team. Steward was a surprise omission for the quarterfinal against Fiji. Marcus Smith misses out on the matchday 23 altogether, Borthwick confirming that the Harlequins player had not recovered from a head bang sustained against the Fijians. Owen Farrell will again skipper the side from flyhalf, with Alex Mitchell completing the halfbacks – while Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant continue in midfield. Elsewhere the side features two other changes, lock George Martin and prop Joe Marler starting in place of Ollie Chessum and Ellis Genge, who both drop to the replacements bench.

Head to head

This will be the fourth time they have met in the knock-out stages of a World Cup, with South Africa winning all three previous games – the 1999 quarterfinals, and 2007 and 2019 Finals.

The Springboks have not defeated England in consecutive tests outside of South Africa since 2012 and 2014 at Twickenham.

SA-v-Eng-head-to-head

SA-v-Eng-head-to-head

Prediction

@rugby365com: South Africa by six points

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Teams

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux.

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Ollie Lawrence.

Date: Saturday, October 21
Venue: Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT; 20.00 UK & Ireland time; 21.00 SAST)
Expected weather: Cloudy, changing to light showers. A high of 15°C and a low of 12°C
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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