What you should know: The A-Z of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final
Springboks / 31 October 2019, 7:30pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen
CAPE TOWN – It’s finally here … it’s the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and there’s not a lot that separates South Africa and England.It should be a thriller between the two-time champion Boks and 2003 winners.
Here rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen lists everything you need to know about the big game, from A to Z.
A is for Aled Walters: The Boks have been playing, training and gyming for nearly three months now to be in the best shape possible in the final. And it’s all down to conditioning coach Walters, who’s done a sterling job to keep the Boks fit and healthy.
B is for Bomb Squad: The replacements have played a big role so far; last week it was Francois Louw who came off the bench to make a crucial steal, so who will it be this week to make the impact that will take the Boks over the line?
C is for Cheslin Kolbe: The star wing missed out last weekend because of injury but he is ready to take his place in the side in the biggest game of his life. Kolbe has been a sensation in Japan, and let’s hope he’s as big as ever in Yokohama.
D is for Damian de Allende: The inside centre is without doubt the unsung hero of the Boks. He’s been brilliant in all departments - he’s carried, tackled, turned over ball and scored tries - and shut up all the nay-sayers.
E is for Eddie Jones: The England boss is a crafty character who has proved many of his doubters wrong. He won a winners’ medal with the Boks in 2007, will he win one again, this time with England? And, what tricks does he have up his sleeve this week?
F is for Faf de Klerk: The Bok scrumhalf’s play - or rather his box-kicking - has been a major talking point over the tournament. However, he has fulfilled his role superbly and will again be the key figure for the Boks in the final.
G is for Game-plan: Both teams have adopted fairly simple, basic plans: keep things tight, bash it up in the forwards and kick - a lot. The defences have also been rather tight (the Boks have conceded only four tries), so don’t expect anything different in the final.
H is for History: There’s very little between the teams: in the last two years they’ve played each other four times and they’ve both won twice. Overall, the Boks have the edge: 25 wins from 42 games, while on neutral ground it’s also the Boks, with three wins out of four.
I is for Injuries: Both teams have suffered losses in the tournament, but the coaching teams will hope none of their key men go down early on. The Boks, with just two backs replacements, will especially hope they’re not caught out at this crucial juncture.
J is for Jerome Garces: The Frenchman has refereed the Boks twice already - in a loss to New Zealand and a win against Wales. He’s said to be among the best in the business, but we must all hope there are no controversial decisions that decide the final.
K is for Kicking: Wales boss Warren Gatland predicted a “kicking fest” last week and he was right; and we could see more of the same in the final. It is the goal-kicking and possibly even a few drop-goals though that are likely to play the biggest part in deciding the outcome.
L is for Luck: Everyone needs a bit of good fortune to come out on top; in this case it could be the bounce of the ball, a defender that slips, a miracle off-load, or even a refereeing decision. Whose stars are aligning perfectly?
M is for Maro Itoje: The England lock was the man of the match against New Zealand and is in the form of his life. A master lineout tactician and a genuine ball-player, how will the Boks deal with the second-row man, and one of England’s key players?
N is for Nonsense: It’s going to be a brutal clash, with big hits, hard carries and colossal collisions. The Boks must stand back for nothing, and get seriously stuck in, but crucially they’re going to also have to maintain good discipline.
O is for Owen Farrell: The England captain is very much the heartbeat of his team and the leader and main decision-maker at the back. His kicking’s also pretty spot-on. He’s got issues with his tackling though and the Boks should target his channel.
P is for Physicality: England No 8 Billy Vunipola said in the week they’ll “bring it”, speaking about fighting Bok fire with their own fire. The team that gets on top, and wins the gainline, will also probably win the game.
Q is for Questions: The Boks have been fairly predictable and one dimensional up to now and fans can only hope that they bring something a little different to the final, and ask a few more questions in different areas than they’ve done up to now.
R is for Rassie Erasmus: The Bok boss has been brilliant in guiding the team from a very dark place a few years ago to the final this weekend. He’s been open and honest with his players and the fans, and it’s his big opportunity now to shine bright.
S is for Siya Kolisi: The Bok captain will earn his 50th Test cap and lead a happy, settled team. His story is massively inspirational and if he lifts the cup after the final whistle it’ll be one of this country’s biggest sporting moments, ever!
T is for Territory: The game of rugby has changed so much; teams nowadays aren’t too concerned about how much ball they have, but rather aim to win the territorial battle. Both teams have blueprints to play the game in their opponents’ half of the field.
U is for Underhill: The young England fanker Sam Underhill has been a revelation at the World Cup and with Tom Curry have become known as the “kamikaze kids”, so destructive have they been. Will the Boks be able to keep Underhill under wraps this week?
V is for Victory: Getting to a World Cup final is a massive achievement and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve rugby greatness. It is now up to the players and the coaching teams to seize the moment and make it count. Victory is everything.
W is for Webb Ellis Cup: Two former Bok captains, Francois Pienaar and John Smit, and Martin Johnson of England, have held the cup up after the final, but who will sip from the magnificent Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday evening?
X is for X-factor: Who’s going to stand out and be the match-winner: Pollard or Farrell with the boot, Kolbe or Mapimpi with a try for the ages, or Tuilagi after a tackle-busting run to go in at the corner? Or will Willie break the line and be the unlikely Bok hero?
Y is for Yokohama: This year’s Bok journey started in Yokohama with a loss to New Zealand in their opening game on September 21, but will it be a victory and glory for them on this occasion, in the international stadium?
Z is for Zeal: The word means “great energy or enthusiasm in the pursuit of a cause or an objective” … and that is what the Boks must play with against arguably the best team at the tournament. There are 80 minutes left for the Boks to give it their everything.