Over time, England and South Africa have become familiar foes at the Rugby World Cup, having met five times (SA W4, L1) before. South Africa won both final matches between these nations – one being 2007’s and then 2019’s triumphant success story.
Mark Cueto’s foot grazing the touchline in 2007 and Cheslin Kolbe causing havoc four years later will still sting in England fans’ memories, though many more players from both teams took part in 2019 – 28 out of 46 total players on both sides played in total!
England’s sole Rugby World Cup victory against South Africa came during their successful 2003 campaign and was also the only time they managed to score a try against them in competition, too.
South Africa have been impressively efficient this World Cup. Although they do not feature among the top five sides for line breaks or 22 entries per game, South Africa are unique in having scored from over half their breaks; furthermore, they rank second for points scored per 22 entry (3.3).
South Africa have demonstrated their keen eye for opportunity by capitalising on any mistakes committed by their opponent, scoring nine tries directly following turnovers, four more than any other nation.
South Africa has excelled not just on the opposition’s 22; they’ve defended their try-line with equal fervor, conceding only an average of 1.2 points for every defensive entry into their 22. Totaling only seven tries conceded, only England can rival them!
South Africa and England have displayed outstanding discipline on their road to the final four, conceding only 8.0 and 8.6 penalties per game, respectively; those averages have only been exceeded by two other teams so far. Furthermore, each side has only received one card so far.
Steve Borthwick has emphasised kicking to gain territory since taking charge at England ahead of this year’s Six Nations, though this didn’t prove successful for them at that event. But since the World Cup kickoff, it has proven crucial in helping England keep possession on 20% of kicks played – more than any other team and with numerous strong kickers throughout their backline, this could prove successful in denying South Africa any field position advantages they might otherwise exploit.
England will keep it close for a half, and then the Springboks will slowly pull away.
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