Cheslin Kolbe could be the difference in the final against England. Photo: Mark R. Cristino/EPA
Cheslin Kolbe could be the difference in the final against England. Photo: Mark R. Cristino/EPA

Kolbe’s return makes Boks more dangerous

By mark keohane Time of article published Nov 1, 2019

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If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.

The Springboks, in the World Cup final against England, will play exactly the same way they have done all tournament. They will rely on the strength of their set piece and look to the famed “bomb squad” to provide impact in the last 30 minutes. Faf de Klerk will kick more than he will pass.

There were no surprises with Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’ selections for the final. Erasmus has been consistent in his matchday squads he has chosen for the Rugby Championship and most of the World Cup.

Erasmus has been clear in his player identification, but what has changed during the World Cup is how he has evolved his thinking with some players, who a few months ago were regular starters but are now finishing the game.

Mark Keohane says it's a win for the Springboks against England.

Hooker Malcolm Marx, in particular, has added a dimension to the Boks when coming off the bench and Erasmus has relied exclusively on a power forward unit that has no equal in the game, when it comes to the standard of substitutes. Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Marx and RG Snyman would start in every other international team and Erasmus has been brilliant in how he has used his forwards.

England haven’t faced a pack as good as South Africa’s.

Erasmus, early in the World Cup, reverted to a “six forwards and two backs” substitutes bench and he may even have been tempted to go seven one when Cheslin Kolbe was declared fit. Kolbe could provide cover at scrumhalf.

Kolbe’s return makes the Boks more dangerous. Sbu Nkosi is a fantastic player and he played well in the semi-final against Wales, but Kolbe’s just got something magical about him. He has the ability to break open the most structured of defences because of his footwork and explosiveness over the first 10 metres. The Bok backs against Wales looked fairly one-dimensional on attack, but very effective defensively. Damian de Allende has enjoyed a massive tournament and for the Bok to win, he will again have to break tackles, make metres and win the collisions. He gives the Boks such value at the moment and in every match he has built momentum with his strong and direct running.

I hope Frans Steyn is introduced into the match much earlier than has been the case in the knockout round. Steyn remains such an influential player. His goalkicking and drop-kicking qualities mean you want him on the field in the second half. Willie le Roux’s selection at fullback will be the hot topic on social media. Le Roux hasn’t been anywhere near his best at the World Cup, but Erasmus has backed the player’s experience and also his knowledge of the English players.

England are the bookmakers’ favourites, but I have the Boks to win an ugly game by five points.


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