VIDEO: Boks' pre-World Cup warning to England
SPOTLIGHT: In 2019, South Africa entered the World Cup final as underdogs.
No team had ever won a final after already losing a match in the pool stages of the competition and the Springboks had suffered defeat at the hand of the All Blacks in their opening fixture.
There was also the small fact that England’s form over the last six months had been simply more impressive.
The Springboks, however, had honed their trade at winning matches they had no business winning and promptly unravelled England to be crowned world champions.
You only have to look back to part-way through the prior year to see that South Africa had England’s number and even when things looked grim, they were going to let their English rivals come out on top.
England travelled to South Africa for a three-match tour in June 2018 with expectations low. Eddie Jones’ men were sitting on a three-match losing streak, having been beaten by France and Ireland at the tail-end of the Six Nations and then battered by the Barbarians, 63-45.
A tour to the Republic isn’t easy even at the best of times but on the back of their current form, England were staring down the barrel of a whitewash.
History was also not on England’s side.
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England has only won 23 percent of their matches against the Springboks in South Africa, with their last win occurring in Bloemfontein in 2000.
England fans’ confidence wasn’t helped by the fact that Eddie Jones named Mike Brown to start on the wing with Elliot Daly preferred at fullback in the first Test of the series.
Sir Clive Woodward wasn’t especially happy with the selection either, writing “At Ellis Park, with the home crowd baying and a few ‘bombs’ coming down from the stratosphere, I would be more than happy to see him at fullback.”
“But that’s it. For me, he’s a 15 or he doesn’t play. I have seen nothing from him to suggest he can operate at the top level on the wing.”
It wasn’t Brown’s first start on the wing – but his previous runs in the 11 jersey hadn’t been roaring successes, like in the big loss to the Barbarians.
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In a shock twist, however, England raced out to a big lead over Siya Kolisi-captained Springboks.
Brown, Daley and Owen Farrell all touched down within the first quarter, helping the travelling side to a 24-3 lead.
Chris Robshaw wins penalty for the first penalty.
Mike Brown finishes brilliantly for the first try.
But then things turned to custard, with the Springboks mounting the biggest comeback in tier-1 rugby history.
By halftime, South Africa had clocked up four tries of their own and taken the lead back from the tourists. Two of those tries came from the debutant on the wing, S’busiso Nkosi.
The home side held on their lead for the remainder of the game, with Aphiwe Dyantyi scoring the Springboks’ only try of the second half. England managed two of their own through Maro Itoje and Johnny May but the boot of Pollard ensured that South Africa emerged victorious in the 80th minute.
The game held extra significance because Siya Kolisi took the mantel of Springboks captain for the first time in his career. It also marked the first time ever that the team had been captained by a non-white player.
Even with all the cards falling England’s way in the first half, a Springbok side spurred on by the opportunity to write their names in the record books couldn’t be stopped.
Less than two years later, the Springboks had the opportunity to make history again in Japan when they faced up against an England side thirsting for a title.
Although England entered the game as favourites, the writing was on the wall: the Springboks wouldn’t be stopped.