Familiar foes lock horns in the second semi-final at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France on Saturday night, as England and South Africa’s Springboks lock horns once again on the biggest stage of all.
The Stade de France fixture concludes the penultimate weekend of a marathon tournament.
And it stirs up plenty of memories, too, as these great rugby rivals face off for the right to play the winner of Friday night’s game between Argentina and New Zealand in the final.
England vs South Africa
Here we are again then, as England and South Africa go to the well once more, this time in the second semi-final at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
It’s a repeat of the 2007 final, almost 16 years to the day since Percy Montgomery and Frans Steyn kicked the Springboks to a 15-6 victory in a nervy, tryless finale at the same venue.
More pertinently for the bulk of today’s players, it’s also a rematch of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Japan four years ago.
And it’s the Boks looking to take the next step to becoming back-to-back champions, buoyed by the memories of Siya Kolisi lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy in Tokyo.
The South Africans reached the semis having come out on top of one of the greatest rugby matches of all time against hosts France.
Jacques Nienaber’s men clung on for dear life to sneak a 29-28 Sunday night win that left a nation in no fit state for work on the Monday morning.
Kurt-Lee Arendse, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe and Eben Etzebeth scored the tries in a match that was partly decided by Handre Pollard’s 69th-minute penalty or, if you prefer, by Kolbe’s sensational charge down of a Thomas Ramos conversion earlier in the contest.
It was breathless stuff – and their opponents were put through the mill as well earlier in the day.
Fiji roared back into contention in their semi-final with the Red Rose, even pulling the scores level thanks to a two-try salvo after the English had led 21-10 at half time.
But captain Owen Farrell silenced the doubters – of whom there are plenty – with a 72nd-minute drop goal followed by a fifth successful penalty kick to send his side through in dramatic fashion in Marseille.
They may have lucked into the easier side of the draw, but Steve Borthwick’s men did the business in the group stages, too.
Wins over Argentina, Japan, minnows Chile and Samoa, if only just, gave the 2003 World Cup champions a clean sweep in Pool D.
It was straightforward enough for South Africa as well, even if they did taste defeat at the hands of Ireland, whose own favourites-tag bit the dust when they were outdone by New Zealand in another epic quarter-final.
An opening victory over plucky Scotland laid the groundwork, with Romania and Tonga proving no match for their might elsewhere in Pool B.
It’s an unchanged Bok 23 for the showdown, as Manie Libbok keeps his place at fly-half ahead of super sub Handre Pollard.
World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi form the imposing front row, with the likes of Ox Nche waiting among the finishers.
They will pack down against Joe Marler, who returns in England’s number one jersey, as one of three changes made by Borthwick.
George Martin comes in at lock for the occasion, while there’s also the expected switch at the back with the reintroduction of Freddie Steward at the expense of Marcus Smith, who drops out of the squad altogether.
England Starting XV: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Ollie Lawrence.
South Africa Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux.
RWC 2023: England vs South Africa prediction and kick off time
|Team||Win %||Team 2||Win %||Predicted Winner||Predicted Margin|
|England||15.5%||South Africa||84.5%||South Africa||14|
Kick Off Time: 21.00 on Saturday 21 October 2023.