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So it comes down to this – 80 minutes of a rugby match that could change the lives of a group of rugby players for the rest of their lives. For both South Africa and England going through political upheaval of different types and magnitude, a Rugby World Cup victory will bring a much-needed euphoria. As South Africans have learnt from Rugby World Cup wins in 1995 and 2007, a victory does not cure a multitude of sins and result in everlasting racial harmony. But victory by a team lead by a Xhosa man creates a wonderful image of what is possible. So what kind of game can we expect? Head coach Rassie Erasmus has said in no uncertain terms that the grind-it-out tactics that have brought the Springboks to the final will not be abandoned. Wales coach Warren Gatland made the important point that most teams play their final in the semi-final. Often teams that dominate in the semi-final are unable to replicate that form on the biggest stage of them all. England can’t be judged solely on their win over New Zealand. They can expect to be stifled by the impenetrable Bok defence and the fearsome physicality of the forwards. They should expect to be prevented from playing the style of rugby that unravelled the All Blacks. They have the players who are equal to the task. It’s a 50/50 game. The sense of occasion will be overwhelming for all the players. Their destinies will be determined by what happens in one rugby match. They could either be heroes forever or passing memories, especially for Siya Kolisi who is on the threshold of history. The mere act of leading the Springboks on to the field at Ellis Park as the first black Springbok captain was big enough to be nominated for a Laureus Award. If he is the person holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft, South Africa will arguably have produced its finest sporting moment. – David O’Sullivan
Fit-again wing Cheslin Kolbe returns to the Springbok team in the only change to the match 23 for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against England at Yokohama International Stadium (kick off 11h00 SA time).
He regains the right wing berth from stand-in Sbu Nkosi in the only change to the team that eased their way to a 19-16 victory over Wales in Sunday’s semi-final.
Siya Kolisi will lead the team out for the 20th time as he becomes the eighth player in the 23 to have won 50 caps.
Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby, named the now familiar six-two split on the bench to field a settled line-up, 22 of whom will be appearing together for the fourth time in the tournament.
This line-up first played together in the play-off-clinching, 49-3, win over Italy a month ago and was retained for the quarter-final, semi-final and now final. Only Kolbe’s ankle injury interrupted the pattern.
“Chessie is fully fit and ready to go,” said Erasmus.
“It’s tough on Sbu to drop out of the 23 altogether but, like the other seven, non-playing squad members – and the two injured players back home [Trevor Nyakane and Jesse Kriel] – he has made vital contributions to our campaign.
“But we have been developing some momentum through the tournament, which has come from consistency, and although we know there are things we can do better this is a fit, well-practiced set of combinations who know what they have to do on Saturday.”
That momentum has seen the Springboks lose only once in 11 tests in 2019, during which they claimed the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and climb back into the top two of the World Rugby rankings for the first time since August 2015.
Now rugby’s biggest prize was just 80 minutes away.
“Getting to this stage is not enough for this team,” said Erasmus.
“We now have what may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become World Champions – something that would mean so much to our country and our people.
“We know the excitement that there is back home and that the country may well be coming to a standstill on Saturday lunchtime in South Africa. There’s a huge weight of expectation.
“We may not be favourites but these players will leave nothing in the tank. We know how the wins in 1995 and 2007 lifted the country – even if it was momentarily. We want to give South Africa that experience once again.”
Kolisi has the opportunity to follow in footsteps of Francois Pienaar and John Smit by becoming the third Springbok captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
It would be achieved on the occasion of his 50th cap: Pienaar did it on his 21st appearance and Smit on his 74th.
“It’s a great achievement for Siya,” said Erasmus.
“Any Springbok captain carries a heavy load – probably doubly so in Siya’s case – and he has really risen to the occasion over the past two years.
“No one is hiding from the significance that would be attached to him lifting the trophy on behalf of this team and South Africa. But first and foremost on Saturday this is a rugby match that we’re only focused on winning.”
The final kicks off at 11h00 (SA time) and is available on SuperSport channel 201, SABC TV and radio.
The Springbok team to play England in Yokohama on Saturday is:
- Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), 60 caps – 60 points (12 tries)
- Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 13 – 35 (7t)
- Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 14 – 15 (3t)
- Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 46 – 30 (6t)
- Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 13 – 65 (13t)
- Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 47 – 435 (6t, 72c, 83p, 4d)
- Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 29 – 20 (4t)
- Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls), 53 – 15 (3t)
- Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 54 – 25 (5t)
- Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 49 – 30 (6t)
- Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls) 44 – 25 (5t)
- Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 84 – 15 (3t)
- Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 37 – 5 (1t)
- Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 35 – 35 (7t)
- Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 116 – 10 (2t)
- Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 32 – 25 (5t)
- Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 46 – 5 (1t)
- Vincent Koch (Saracens, England) 20 – 0
- RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 22 – 5 (1t)
- Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), 38 – 5 (1t)
- Francois Louw (Bath, England), 75 – 50 (10t)
- Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), 9 – 20 (4t)
- Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 66 – 141 (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
Facts and Stats
England and South Africa have played against each other in four RWC matches.
The first was at Stade de France in Paris in 1999. South Africa won 44-21. Jannie de Beer scored 34 points from two conversions, five penalty goals and a Rugby World Cup record five drop goals.
The second was in Perth in 2003, which was won by England 25-6. Jonny Wilkinson was successful with a conversion, four penalty goals and two drop goals for a personal tally of 20 points.
The third and fourth Test matches between the two countries took place at the 2007 RWC tournament in France. The Springboks easily won the pool match 36-0. England won all their other pool matches as well as the quarter-final and semi-final to qualify for the final. The final turned out to be a kicking duel between Jonny Wilkinson (two penalty goals) and Percy Montgomery (four penalty goals) with Frans Steyn adding another penalty to the Springboks final score of 15-6.
England have competed in all RWC tournaments since 1987. To date England’s record is as follows: Played 49; Won 36; Lost 13; Points for 1,557; Points against 751; Win % 73.
South Africa’s first RWC tournament was in 1995 and the Springbok record to date is as follows: Played 42; Won 35; Lost 7; Points for 1,480; Points against 541; Win % 83.
This will be the 43rd Test match between the two countries and the Springboks’ records to date are as follows:
Team match records against England
- Most points: 58
- Most tries: 8
- Most conversions: 7
- Most penalty goals: 6
- Most drop goals: 5
Individual match records against England
- Most points: 34 – Jannie de Beer.
- Most tries: 3 – Danie Gerber.
- Most conversions: 7 – Percy Montgomery.
- Most penalty goals: 6 – Braam van Straaten.
- Most drop goals: 5 – Jannie de Beer.
- The total test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 694; an average of 46.
- There are 222 caps in the backline (average 32) with 472 caps amongst the forwards (average 59). On the bench there are a further 308 caps (average 39).
- The average age of the starting fifteen is 28.
- Handré Pollard needs two tries to equal the career record of eight tries as a flyhalf held by Morné Steyn.
- The referee is Jérôme Garcès of France. This will be his 15th Test match as a referee with South Africa involved and his 56th Test match in his career.
- The assistant referees are Romain Poite of France and Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand, while Ben Skeen, also from New Zealand, will be the TMO.
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