South Africa have won their third World Cup after a 32-12 win over England in Yokohama in this morning’s World Cup Final. Given that England had beaten New Zealand last Saturday 19-7 and South Africa saw off Wales in an arm wrestle last Sunday the widely held belief was that England would win if they played somewhere close to the way in which they did against New Zealand.
South Africa did not get that particular memo and went after England in the set piece where they had real dominance throughout the campaign and the loss of Kyle Sinkler was keenly felt after he left the field after 2 minutes after being knocked out with Dan Cole being asked to play the duration of the 80 minutes and as we have seen in the past 12 months England have used Kyle Sinkler and others for over 50 minutes at least before bringing in the “finishers” as Eddie Jones likes to call them.
This time though his plan went out the window as the strength of the South African 23 came out in force and from the moment Jerome Garces awarded the first scrum penalty to South Africa after Sinkler’s departure the writing seemed to be on the wall.
Similar to Steve Hansen last weekend I feel Jones could have sprung Ben Spencer from the bench early on in the game as I feel Ben Youngs had a poor day at the office, the Saracens pairing at half back might have been able to put England on the front foot but like most of these teams no real deviation from the tried and trusted.
South Africa for their part were of course beaten on the opening weekend by New Zealand but since that game they managed to use a very structured game plan with a six/two split on the bench for the rest of the tournament which meant they could strangle the life out of teams and finish off sides by utilising a full front five on the bench in the final stages of games.
Looking at the way in which South Africa played this morning is very reminiscent of the Erasmus/Nieneber coaching template that they worked on while in charge of Munster from June 2016 to December 2017. The defence system employed by South Africa worked very well for Munster although they did lose out in two Semi Finals in the Pro 14 and Champions Cup.
A word as well for ex Munster coach Felix Jones who took up a role with South Africa in the summer where he was an opposition analyst for them.
He was wanted by Erasmus as soon as he took on the head coach role but bided his time and saw out his contract with Munster and then turned down a new deal and when this chance came he took it with both hands, congrats to Felix and Aled Walters who both worked with Munster in recent seasons.
Well done to South Africa who now join New Zealand as three time winners of the World Cup, only England in 2003 managed to break the southern hemisphere dominance as the only northern hemisphere winner with Australia winning two in 1991 and 1999.
South Africa were winners in 1995, 2007 and 2019. Francois Steyn won his second winners medal this morning after winning his first in 2007 as a 20 year old. All eyes will now focus on France 2023 where South Africa will defend their crown but not before facing the British and Irish Lions in the summer of 2021.
For the northern hemisphere it is back to drawing board, having two of the semi finalists in England and Wales but still England could not match the intensity of last week to see them through. We were told by Eddie Jones this week that England could play better than they had done in defeating New Zealand but unfortunately for Mr Jones, all his planning and preparation since 2015 hasn’t counted for little, yes this experience will help the majority of this squad when 2023 rolls around but for the here and now they were beaten by a well drilled and disciplined South Africa side.
All roads now lead to France 2023, it’s the beginning of a new 4 year cycle for each team involved and for those hoping to be involved. It is also time World Rugby seriously to try and evolve the global appeal of the game but that’s for another day….