Cape Town - Revenge for the 2019 Rugby World Cup final defeat at the hands of the Springboks is not what England are aiming for at Twickenham on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean coach Eddie Jones is not still thinking about that November night in Yokohama.
South Africa’s 32-12 triumph to claim their third title was a moment to forget for Jones and his team, who were regarded as favourites in some quarters after dismantling the All Blacks in the semi-final.
But Siya Kolisi and his side turned on the magic to clinch victory, and it is something that still haunts Jones to this day.
“They beat us fair and square, and you go into a final and give your best, and sometimes you’re not good enough,” the Australian said from the England team base at Pennyhill Park during an online press conference on Thursday, after naming Courtney Lawes as the captain for Saturday’s Test in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell.
“Personally, you never forget it, mate – you never forget it. And the players who played in that final never forget it. It’s with you your whole life, and the ability then to get past that, and focus on what’s important…
“Hence, I have been impressed by how our team has done that, and I’m just excited about coaching this young team, and where they can go.
“The 2019 World Cup is not a significant memory that I have, but that’s not to say I don’t still wake up in the morning and think about it. It’s a scar that you have for the rest of your life, mate!”
Asked if England are aiming to gain revenge at Twickenham, Jones said: “Not at all, mate. They’ve got a different team, we’ve got a different team. Different circumstances… We don’t get the World Cup back, mate. We don’t get the gold medal back.
“So, this game is about this game against this South African team that’s number one in the world. We’re number three in the world, and they think we’ve got a weak forward pack – we’ll see on Saturday.”
England are well prepared to try and neutralise the Boks, who have beaten Wales and Scotland on their November trip through the UK. Jones’ team produced a 32-15 win over Australia last week, after the Wallabies emerged victorious twice over the South Africans during the Rugby Championship.
They also have former Bok forwards Matt Proudfoot in their management team, but Jones was adamant that there was no special secret to beating Jacques Nienaber’s side.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any secret, mate. You’ve got to front up physically, you’ve got to be able to take their might away… And then you’ve got to be able to, whatever opportunities you get, you’ve got to be able to take them clinically,” Jones said.
“Their defence, whilst it’s aggressive and in-your-face, it does also create opportunities to attack really well. But you’ve got to be good enough to take them.
“If we go back to the World Cup final, we had opportunities in that first half, where we could’ve finished them off. Australia managed to finish their opportunities really well against South Africa, so again, I don’t think there are any secrets to it, mate – you’ve got to front up upfront, and you’ve got to take your opportunities.
“It’s everything, mate! This is the only game that counts – it’s the last game of the year. Post the World Cup, they knew they were going to win, they knew they had the wood on us.
“The implication is that our forward pack is weak, but our forward pack is not weak, mate… and we will show that on Saturday.
“Like any part of life, you earn respect, and you earn respect in rugby by being tough to play against, always showing up. Always playing with a good spirit and a good sort of toughness, and that is what you will see from our team on Saturday.”
15 Freddie Steward 14 Joe Marchant 13 Henry Slade 12 Manu Tuilagi 11 Jonny May 10 Marcus Smith 9 Ben Youngs 8 Tom Curry 7 Sam Underhill 6 Courtney Lawes (captain) 5 Jonny Hill 4 Maro Itoje 3 Kyle Sinckler 2 Jamie Blamire 1 Bevan Rodd.
Bench: 16 Nic Dolly 17 Joe Marler 18 Will Stuart 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Sam Simmonds 21 Alex Dombrandt 22 Raffi Quirke 23 Max Malins.