England v South Africa: Five takeaways from the Rugby World Cup semi-final as bench gets Springboks out of jail

Following South Africa’s 16-15 victory over England, here are our five takeaways from a thrilling Rugby World Cup semi-final in Paris.

The top line

In a hard-fought match at the Stade de France, Handre Pollard eliminated England from the Rugby World Cup as a penalty in the closing seconds advanced the Springboks to their second straight championship game. On the same field with the same referee, they defeated northern hemisphere competition in back-to-back weeks by a single point.

It was the cruelest of results for Steve Borthwick’s team, who controlled the collisions, set-pieces, and breakdown for the entire 60 minutes. The Springboks’ victory was only made possible by the depth of the South African bench and the decline in performance of England’s starting and finishing props.

Written out before the competition, criticized as lucky due to the draw by all quarters, England will have gained fresh respect from everyone in the sport today, giving their forward pack some teeth and giving their rugby culture some legitimacy again.

But as they take on New Zealand in Paris the following Saturday, South Africa’s enthusiasm for the World Cup continues and their simple reluctance to admit defeat puts them apart.

Best versions

Whoever was wondering which version of England will show up in Paris tonight had their questions answered as loudly and clearly as they possibly could. In contrast to the finest in the world, not a single step backward was taken, and many forward ones were seen, especially during an amazing first half. This was the most forward performance by an England pack in a very, very long time.

Courtney Lawes led the charge with an absolutely world-class performance on the blindside flank, his try-saving jackal in the first half underscoring his brilliant performance. George Martin announced his arrival on the international stage with a tireless display of powerful ruckwork and absolutely melting tackles, his rip-off Franco Mostert underscoring England meant business. The young Leicester tyro h led the charge with an absolutely world-class performance on the inside center.

With Tom Curry fighting like a bloodied warrior and Dan Cole and Joe Marler erasing memories of 2019 scrum time, this was a forward performance to be proud of and something to build upon into the next cycle of World Cups and beyond. However, as the starters wore down, fresh legs changed the game in South Africa’s favor, but England can be extremely proud of their effort.


Backs join party

It wasn’t just the forwards either; Freddie Steward’s performance in the pouring rain in Paris was nothing short of heroic, and small incidents all over the place highlighted England’s physicality. For example, Elliot Daly’s hit on Duane Vermeulen will live in his memory forever, and England’s centers hit everything that moved in green.

Even Jonny May joined in, quietly putting on a superb defensive display rather than a dazzling one with the ball in hand.

But one man, England’s captain Owen Farrell, stood on the bridge of his ship and flatly refused to budge, answering every query and criticism that had been directed at him for four long years.

If England had won the game, it would have had a career-defining performance. This effort was so characteristic of the powerful Saracen, and it was similar to Jonny Wilkinson’s performance on the same field in the same World Cup round some 16 years ago. His biggest critics, the South African fans, may finally see what a terrible player Farrell is now.

Bench impacts

Ox Nche is an improbable hero, but the impact he had on the South African scrum when he entered the picture after Marler and Cole had exhausted their supplies was rather amazing. We were always aware that South Africa had a strong bench, and in addition to the formidable Sharks loosehead, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, and the legendary Willie le Roux all significantly contributed to South Africa’s change-up.

However, it was the scrummage play that cost them; Ellis Genge buckled under the immense pressure from Vincent Koch and gave up two critical penalties. When Kyle Sinckler appeared to have eventually bettered Nche close to the Bok line, the referee sided with the earlier image, and Sinckler surrendered. England might have felt very unlucky not to have gotten one back.

Manie Libbok was having trouble, so Rassie Erasmus acted quickly and removed the inexperienced Test 10 from the field so that Pollard could play with more accuracy and give South Africa a bit more control.

Without a doubt, the Boks’ bench helped them escape from prison. Pollard was rather unexpectedly voted Player of the Match, but this victory was mostly due to the work his replacement forwards, particularly that little Bloemfontein prop named Nche, produced off the bench.




Look ahead

Although it might have been a slightly harder route than predicted, the Springboks move forward to meet New Zealand, a side they annihilated a month ago at Twickenham, whilst England will play Argentina in the Bronze final on Friday, just reward for an exceptional campaign.

South Africa will be odds on to win that match, but in doing so, they will have to move their attack a long way forward from what we saw in Paris on Saturday.

Put simply, New Zealand score a lot of points, and the Boks struggled against England to get through a quite brilliant defence. With the All Blacks also having one more day of recovery, it’s all to play for, and this final might just be a little closer than the game in August in London.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button