Springboks / 30 October 2019, 09:00am / wynona louw
One thing that can always be expected ahead of a big Test is a jibe or two from England boss Eddie Jones.
Wales coach Warren Gatland had another taste of that after he had suggested that England had played their best game already (against New Zealand), implying that they might not turn up against the Springboks in the World Cup final on Saturday the way they did in their semi-final.
When asked about Gatland’s remark by the media, Jones was quick with a sharp response.
“Guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third and fourth play-off”.
That dig was as brutal as they come, but the act was nothing new from Jones.
Springbok chief Rassie Erasmus though, isn’t expecting the master of mind games to take a swing at him before they meet on Saturday.
“I’ve coached four times against Eddie now, and there’s never been any of those normal discussions via the media or something between myself and Eddie.
“So, I’m expecting the same kind of normal build-up to a Test match. He might surprise us.
“What I do expect on the field is a very well-coached England team. A fit England team with a great tactical plan, and then obviously the physicality that England brought to New Zealand was just next level last Saturday.
“It’s been a long time since I saw an England team pitch up with that amount of physicality. They must be brimming with confidence, and I’m sure they are ready to bring that same intensity. We will have to be really up to try and match that.”
A big factor in that game was also how England piled the pressure on New Zealand with their smothering linespeed.
It cut down the All Blacks’ space and time, something that saw the reigning World Cup champions appear noticeably under pressure when it came to their decision-making and, at times, their execution.
Linespeed is something that’s also worked well for the Boks, as they’ve managed to put teams under pressure with the defensive technique themselves.
Speaking of pressure ...
Unlike Jones, who last week denied feeling any pressure ahead of their semi against New Zealand, Erasmus went the other route ahead of Saturday, saying that coaching a team in a World Cup final for the first time as head coach already comes with pressure, and that going up against an experienced campaigner like Jones only adds to it.
“On the pressure, I haven’t coached at a World Cup before as a head coach. So, the pressure is on and we feel the pressure. We are excited, but we feel it and find our ways to handle it. We need to try to work around it.
“And they would have the upper hand in terms of Eddie’s experience, both with South Africa and Australia. But we have tried to find our own ways to handle that, and so far, so good.
But certainly, Saturday will be that big step for us to see if we can go that last step.”