South Africa will be looking to win their third Rugby World Cup title when they square off against England in the final in Yokohama later today. The odds are perhaps against the Springboks- no team has won the Rugby Championship and the World Cup in the same year (SA won the 2019 RC), and no team has won the World Cup after losing a game in pool play (the Boks have already lost to New Zealand). However their previous two titles came in 1995 and 2007, and going by the twelve year gap between those trophies, this might well be their evening.
England will be favourites for this clash- they’ve already beaten Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in this tournament, and beating the Boks will see Eddie Jones’ side achieve the Southern Hemisphere “Grand Slam”- perhaps the toughest path to a title win since the Boks in 1995. Jones will also become the first foreign coach to win a World Cup- all previous winners have had a manager native to their country.
Jones, not surprisingly, has chosen to name an unchanged XV- keeping faith with the side that dismantled the All Blacks in the semi-final. There’s only one injury enforced change on the bench, with Ben Spencer coming in for Willi Heinz.
The Springboks have one change- influential winger Cheslin Kolbe returns from his ankle injury to take his spot in the XV ahead of Sbu Nkosi. Apart from his attacking influence and capability under the high ball, Kolbe is also very good on defence- his decisions on the rush defence system have been fantastic, and it’s been a big reason for the Boks’ fine showing defensively.
As pointed out by The Cricket Blog, South Africa were woeful at the Cricket World Cup earlier this year. They lost their tournament opener to England, who eventually went on to lift their maiden trophy on home soil. Given the fragile economic and political situation back in home, a win for the Boks would definitely help foster unity in a country still struggling to erase the legacy of apartheid. Siya Kolisi could become the first black captain to win the Web Ellis Cup. Rugby and cricket also have a common following, and victory at the RWC will, in some way, make up for their horror showing at the CWC.
A Springbok win will also see Frans Steyn cement his spot in the history books- he was in the country’s 2007 WC winning team as well.
If England win this World Cup- it’ll be a fantastic eighteen odd months for sport in the country- reaching the semis of the Football World Cup, winning the Cricket one, and now the RWC.
Both finals contested by the Springboks have never produced a try (1995 and 2007), and this is likely to be another tightly contested affair.
Odds: England (4/9), SA (13/5)