England coach Eddie Jones and his South African counterpart, Rassie Erasmus have built up a budding rivalry in a short space of time, but the stakes will be at the highest when they go toe to toe in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.
The Springboks booked a date against the 2003 champions by defeating Wales in Yokohama on Sunday, setting up a second final featuring the two sides, who contested the big match in the 2007 edition.
England preparing for tricky encounter against the Boks
Jones, alongside his assistant John Mitchell, was among the spectators in the Boks vs Wales semifinal, getting a close glimpse at his team’s next opponents.
Having engaged in some fierce battles with Erasmus, who took charge of the Boks in 2018, Jones believes his opposite number may not have shown his hand ahead of the final.
“Rassie (Erasmus) is a cunning coach so we’re prepared for the unexpected,” he said.
“They can play in different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk do 15-20 box kicks in the game. We know they can play differently but we also know that they are going to come through the front door. There are not many Springbok teams that don’t come through the front door. So we’ve got to be ready at the front door and have enough cover at the back door too.”
Jones vs Erasmus head-to-head
Erasmus began his tenure as Springbok coach against a touring England side in June 2018.
In a series consisting of three Tests, South Africa won the first two before losing the dead rubber at a wet Newlands.
The two sides then met at Twickenham later in the year, and it was the hosts who prevailed on that occasion, pulling off a narrow win in a match perhaps best remembered for centre Owen Farrell’s no-arms tackle on André Esterhuizen.
The two sides have met three times in the Rugby World Cup, with the Springboks scoring two victories, including one in the final back in 2007.
England’s on World Cup win against the Boks came in the Pool phase of the 2003 tournament, which they eventually won, beating an Australian side coached by Eddie Jones in the final.
The final between England and South Africa kicks off at 11:00 (SAST).
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against Wales is of a lower profile than the battle that precedes it and, as would have been expected, it’s the other match that has drawn more headlines in the lead-up to the weekend’s action.
England take on New Zealand in the first semifinal on Saturday, and the build-up to the clash had already courted a bit of controversy.
This is after England coach, Eddie Jones claimed to have noticed that one of their training sessions was being filmed from a high-rise building on Tuesday.
Mzwandile Stick condemns spying
The revelation from the former Wallabies coach made its way to a Springbok presser in Tokyo, where assistant coach, Mzwandile Stick fielded a question on spying.
“We are trying to keep the game clean as South Africans, led by World Rugby standards,” the former SA Sevens captain said.
“Doing something like that is not part of what we stand for. We are an honest side. I do not think we will ever do something stupid like that.
“You are not only fooling yourself but cheating the whole world. Supporters coming out here want a fair battle between two teams and that is what we always talk about. We do not need something like spying. We all have to play fair and square.”
Springboks trust in own tactics
South Africa meet Wales for the third time in the Rugby World Cup, having won both their previous encounters.
It’s also the second time in as many tournaments that the two nations meet in the knockout rounds, following a narrow victory for the Springboks in the 2015 quarterfinals.
Sunday’s clash arrives with the Dragons ranked a spot higher than the men in green, having consolidated their place in third after victory over France, while their opponents rose up to fourth with their win against Japan.
Flanker Francois Louw was in the Bok squad on both previous World Cup meetings, and believes Wales are not to be underestimated.
“There is no way we are taking Wales lightly,” he said.
“They have been playing consistently well for a number of years, won the [Six Nations] grand slam earlier this year and were top of the world rankings for a few hours or days.
“They are a fantastic outfit, a highly organised, structured side in which players wholeheartedly believe in their systems. They have a very effective defence and while they had a close call against France in the quarter-final, they will take a lot from that. It is play-off rugby. Anything can happen.”
The match on Sunday kicks off at 11:00 (SAST).
England coach Eddie Jones believes that the All Blacks are the side under the greatest pressure to perform in the Rugby World Cup.
Jones praised the All Blacks coaching staff and players, saying their team doesn’t have any weaknesses except the weight of expectations on them to succeed.
Pressure is real
“I don’t think they are vulnerable, but pressure is a real thing,” Jones said. “The busiest bloke in Tokyo this week will be Gilbert Enoka, the [All Blacks] mental skills coach.
“They have to deal with all this pressure of winning the World Cup three times and it is potentially the last game for their greatest coach and their greatest captain. They will be thinking about those things.”
Looking to the Lions tour for inspiration
The British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 will serve as an inspiration to the England team as they hunt a rare win over the All Blacks in Yokohama.
Jones says his England side will not be intimidated by the number one ranked side in the world.
“They went down there, they played in their back yard. They know they (the All Blacks) are human. They bleed, they drop balls, they miss tackles like every other player. It’s our job to take the time and space away so that we put them under pressure.
“You’ve got the top four teams in the world now. On one Saturday you’ve got to be the best team for 80 minutes. Progressively, we’ve built a game that we think we can take New Zealand with, and we’ve done that over the last two and a half years.
“No one thinks we can win. There are 120 million Japanese people out there whose second team are the All Blacks. We’ve just got to have a great week, enjoy it, relax. If we’re good enough, we’ll win; if we’re not good enough, we’ve done our best.
“New Zealand talk about walking towards pressure, well this week the pressure is going to be chasing them down the street.”
Just another game for All Blacks
England haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 2012 and have never beaten New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.
Such is the All Blacks perfectionism that the 2012 loss at Twickenham still bothers star lock Brodie Retallick.
“I remember the loss pretty well,” said Retallick, who is rated as the best lock in the world in terms of his allround game and has an enviable win-ratio at international level.
“The one thing that stands out from that game is the physicality they turned up with. Strong ball carries and the physicality at ruck-time was huge. Who turns up up front and wins that physical battle generally comes out on top. I’m guessing it will happen again this weekend.”
The All Blacks and England square off in Yokohama on Saturday 26 October.