England’s slick attacking play against the All Blacks was impressive, but the Springboks can put them on the back foot if they can limit the impact of Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.
The flankers have been a big part of England’s run to the final having been paired up for the first time earlier this year, and they laid the platform for the Roses to stun the All Blacks.
Fierce competition the order of the day for Springboks
The All Blacks opted not to compete with England’s loosies at the breakdown for much of the semifinal defeat allowing George Ford to unleash his backline going forward.
It is not in the Springboks DNA to stand off at the breakdown, and the semifinal against Wales bears testament to that. Wales gave as good as they got in ruck contests and the match turned into a kicking battle as a result.
The appointment of Jerome Garces might bizarrely work in the Springboks favour. The Frenchman was content to allow the rucks in that match against Wales to devolve into arm-wrestles.
If the match takes a similar shape to the contest against Wales, the Boks will back themselves to come out on top off the back of the strength of their larger pack.
Not your dad’s England
England are not set up to play ugly rugby, deploying a mobile second-row of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes. Jones would prefer it if Itoje and Lawes weren’t sucked into rucks all evening with the pair used as ball carrying options alongside number eight Billy Vunipola.
The Springboks will also be keen to lock Curry and Underhill up in a ruck, rather than have the pair hunting down their runners or putting Handre Pollard under pressure.
On several occasions, Underhill hit All Blacks ball carriers well behind the gainline, and the Springboks don’t want to be beaten at their own game.
If the Springboks allow England quick ball, the George Ford and Owen Farrell axis in midfield could shred South Africa’s defence. The Boks need to test the fitness of Farrell and the willingness of Ford to mix it with the most physical opponents they have faced at this Rugby World Cup.
Erasmus has shown faith in Pieter-Steph du Toit, whose contribution to the Springboks World Cup run has been severely understated, and skipper Siya Kolisi on the side of the scrum. That leaves Underhill’s Bath teammate Francois Louw on the bench. Barring injury Louw could be the first substitute Erasmus turns to but the coach will be hoping the big stage inspires Kolisi to get back to his best.