- South Africa’s director of rugby believes England will provide a ‘tough test’
- Saturday’s semi-final will be a replica of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final
- Erasmus thinks England is fitter thanks to ex-Springboks coach Aled Walters
South Africa insist they are wary of England ahead of Saturday’s World Cup semi-final, especially as they know one of Steve Borthwick’s key men inside and out.
Aled Walters was the Springbok fitness guru who helped them to global glory in 2019 when they beat England in the final in Japan.
Walters is now in the Red Rose camp as assistant to head coach Borthwick.
“We know how fit Aled will have them (England) and some of our players are playing in the Premier League, but on top of that Steve (Borthwick) is a good coach,” said South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
“It will be a very tough test against a team that has not lost a game.” Four years on from their last World Cup meeting with South Africa, the gap between the two sides appears enormous, as evidenced by what we have seen in France so far.
South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus can’t wait to take on England in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday
Erasmus praised the quality of Steve Borthwick’s coaching (left) and praised the impact former Springboks coach Aled Walters (right) has had on England’s fitness
England came through a quarter-final Test match against Fiji and secured a semi-final draw with South Africa
This is despite England being the only undefeated team in the tournament.
The Springboks produced an incredible performance to inflict a first home defeat on France since March 2021 and set up a last-four clash with the Borthwick side.
Flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit said his team was motivated by the chance to become the first to win consecutive World Cups without the help of home advantage.
New Zealand is the only team to have won consecutive global showpieces, including the William Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015. The first of those successes came in their own backyard.
“Something we’ve talked about is going back-to-back and not in your home country. That went through our minds,” Du Toit said.
‘But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. The thing about World Cup Rugby is that the semi-finals are tough games. They can go either way.
‘England have a completely new coaching staff. They’ve definitely made some changes, including in the way they play. We respect them. It’s very exciting.’
Erasmus added: “If you look at England and South Africa statistically, they are very close in terms of the number of tries scored and conceded and in terms of defense.
Borthwick tries to lead England to the Rugby World Cup final, with the Springboks standing in his way
South Africa are favorites for the weekend’s knockout match, a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final
‘We know this will certainly be an exciting match, but we are in the fortunate situation that all 33 players are uninjured and should be available for selection.’
South Africa’s win over Les Bleus was a rugby battle for the ages and followed another astonishing encounter between Ireland and New Zealand at the same venue in Paris 24 hours earlier.
Jacques Nienaber’s side defeated their opponents four tries to three, but only won by the narrowest of margins as they defied the loss of Eben Etzebeth with a yellow card.
Pieter-Steph du Toit (centre) explained that South African players are determined to become the first ever team to win consecutive Rugby World Cups not on home soil
It was giant lock Etzebeth who provided the crucial score when he switched in the second half. South Africa emerged victorious with 29-28 winners.
“It’s a quick turnaround to play England again,” Du Toit added.
‘A lot of the boys were watching the New Zealand vs Ireland game and afterwards we couldn’t sleep because it was so exciting.
‘We were fortunate that we also played in an exciting Test match.’
South Africa are now the absolute favorites to win the World Cup and it will take a major upset for England to beat them. New Zealand will take on Argentina in the other last four match. All signs point to a final between the current holders and the All Blacks.