Thursday 23 January 2020

Erasmus has to make sure his men make a fast start

England v South Africa, (Live Eir Sport/RTE2 Tomorrow 9am)

Rassie Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus
Eddie Jones

There has been a calmness about Tokyo this week as two teams with a clear-eyed focus hone in on the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama tomorrow. Given the calibre of player and the clash of styles, this could be one of the great finals.

South Africa may have played within themselves to get to this point, but they know they need to spread their wings if they are to have a hope.

Rassie Erasmus is a smart coach, he has great players at his disposal and a capacity to ramp things up physically over the course of the 80 minutes that few teams can live with.

Eddie Jones' England side's mission is to take the Springbok bench out of the equation. If they can start strong and strike early, they can make it a chase for the 'bomb-squad'.

That's the moniker the South African bench has earned with its phenomenal capacity to step up the brutality.

Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert and Francois Louw would be starters in most other teams. Instead, they will be rolled on early in the second half to wreak havoc.

The 24-year-old Snyman has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Maro Itoje, but instead he'll watch from the sideline as Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager attempt to grind down the starting forwards. Itoje was the best player on the pitch last week against New Zealand and he'll back himself to have another dominant display.

In their best performances of 2019, England have started like a train and South Africa will need to match that.

They have the scrum to deal with the English eight, while their defensive lineout is more than capable of applying pressure to Jamie George's throw.

If they can neutralise England at the ruck and stop them getting the ball out of contact, then George Ford and Owen Farrell will be presented with a much tougher task.

Faf de Klerk kicked everything that moved last weekend, but it's expected he'll look to link up with Handre Pollard a lot more this week.

They have the direct option of Damian de Allende to send down the Ford/Farrell channel, while they have the option of beating Manu Tuilagi's rush and releasing the fit-again Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi who have the beating of most defenders on the edge.

"The high ball has come into play in this World Cup, and it's something we've worked hard on," South Africa assistant coach Jacques Nienaber said. With Ben Youngs, Ford and Farrell all possessing strong kicking games, they'll know quickly where they stand.

South Africa have the athletes to cope with their physicality but England have the better attacking plan. If they get ahead, they'll stay there.

SOUTH AFRICA: W le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F de Klerk; T Mtawarira, M Mbonambi, F Malherbe; E Etzebeth, L de Jager; S Kolisi (capt), PS du Toit, D Vermeulen. Reps: M Marx, S Kitshoff, V Koch, RG Snyman, F Mostert, F Louw, H Jantjies, F Steyn.

ENGLAND: E Daly; A Watson, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (capt), J May; G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler; M Itoje, C Lawes; T Curry, S Underhill, B Vunipola. Reps: L Cowan-Dickie, J Marler, D Cole, G Kruis, M Wilson, B Spencer, H Slade, J Joseph.

Ref: J Garces (France)

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