When Steve Borthwick evaluated the possibility of South Africa fielding a formidable team, he was able to see clearly.
“We’re playing one of the world’s best teams,” according to him.
“It’s going to put a significant strain on your body. Our forwards are required to give the finest performances that they are capable of giving. We need to experiment with new strategies and play the game in a different way.
It’s possible that the year is 2023. Instead, it is from eight years earlier, when Borthwick had cherry blossoms rather than a red rose tattooed on his chest, and Japan was getting ready to play the Springboks in Brighton at the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
After another four days, Japan stunned the globe by pulling off an upset with a score of 34-32.
Borthwick is no longer the forwards coach for Japan but instead is the head coach for England.
The outcome of Saturday’s semi-final match, in which his team competes, would not be as shocking if they were to win. However, South Africa, who eliminated the tournament’s hosts France during the past weekend, are understandably considered major favorites.
However, Borthwick has a plan once more in this instance. His star number eight Ben Earl hesitated to reveal any specifics, but he did guarantee that it would be “really exciting” and that it would “play to our strengths.”
The question now is how Borthwick and his team can continue to surprise the Boks.
Be the master of the air.
The highest possible priority. As a result of the pandemonium that was caused by South Africa’s kicking game in the backfield, France gave up three tries in the first half.
Gael Fickou was unable to secure Cobus Reinach’s box-kick on the first try because his sightlines were blocked by the massive Eben Etzebeth. Meanwhile, Kurt Lee-Arendse feasted on the scraps left behind.
On the second, Cameron Woki deftly juggled a Manie Libbok crossfield bomb into the waiting arms of Damian de Allende, who was quite appreciative.
Cheslin Kolbe was able to sneak in on the third thanks to a grubber that was prodded by Jesse Kriel into a wide open space.
After France had dominated other measures by far larger margins, the United States came back with three tries, 19 points, and only a three-point disadvantage.
“France in the first half, with the ball, were absolutely unbelievable,” said former England international Paul Grayson on the podcast of the BBC’s Rugby Union Daily. Grayson was speaking about France’s performance during the first half.
“But South Africa had done nothing and gotten three tries, which I wouldn’t say were gifted to South Africa by France, but they would surely go down as assists.
“It is up to England to figure it out. It is imperative that your backfield coverage and ability to defuse anything that is launched into the air be exceptional. This transmission must be flawless, predominate, and exercise complete control over the airways.
Marcus Smith, an innovative and dynamic fullback option for England throughout the tournament, was not available to Borthwick because he did not pass a return-to-play test following their victory over Fiji. As a result, Borthwick was unable to use Smith.
However, Freddie Steward was always the finest solution to stop the flood of points that destroyed French expectations. He was the only one.
Because he is eight inches taller than Smith and has a track record as a specialist, he will be essential to the process of counteracting South Africa’s kick-to-compete strategy in attack.
Borthwick could also be considering whether the Boks are susceptible to their own technique and whether or not this concerns him. Arendse and Kolbe might have a speed advantage over Jonny May and Elliot Daly, but at 5 feet 10 inches and 5 feet 7 inches, respectively, they are significantly shorter than their competitors.
Would England be able to isolate them by aerial combat when they attacked?
Stay away from the chaos.
Joe Marler and George Martin have been selected by Borthwick to bolster the scrum’s strength. But while playing against the Springboks, the objective should be to limit the damage rather than to dominate.
The power and strength in depth of South Africa’s set pieces are unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Grayson advised, “You’ve got to stay away from the scrum,” so do your best to avoid it.
“If you make mistakes, as in you knock the ball on and give the opposition a chance to assert themselves in the scrum because they’re in control of it, you’re going to be under the pump.”
There is already a model available for implementing this aspect of the game plan.
A front-row emergency was present during England’s most recent victory over South Africa, which took place in November of 2021.
Ellis Genge was not feeling well. Injuries were sustained by Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie. After his encounter with Covid, Marler was only able to return to work in a substitute capacity.
Instead, the inexperienced trio consisting of Bevan Rodd, Jamie Blamire, and Kyle Sinckler played defensively from the very beginning.
Although they had trouble in the scrum at times, particularly in the second half when South Africa used up all of their substitutes, England was able to pull out the win 27-26.
Marler, who entered the game in the 49th minute as a substitute, commented afterward, “We needed to box clever.”
“You are going to have to figure out ways to adapt. You have to be able to find ways to fight fire with fire and be front and center sometimes, but you also have to play to our strengths and abilities. It was necessary for us to make an effort to move the ball more.
Grayson feels that England will move it via the boot on Saturday evening because rain is in the forecast for that time. This strategy involves purchasing territory at the expense of possession.
“England need to get rid of the ball before they make a mistake,” said the commentator.
“Play enough to get yourself on the front foot and into a decent position, put your boot through the ball, and force the Springboks to play out from deeper.”
Maintain your good health.
Increasing the frequency of scrums and the resets that they inevitably cause will speed up the game.
France started their quarterfinal match against South Africa on the defensive by keeping the ball in play, shifting their point of attack, and turning defenders with brilliant kicks. This put South Africa in a position where they were playing from behind.
Put as much strain as possible on South Africa’s starting pack, push their front-row ‘Bomb Squad’ replacements off the bench early, and you will have neutralized one of their primary advantages. This is the theory, anyway.
Aled Walters ought to be in a better position than most people to know the truth. Although he was a member of the Springboks’ training staff at the most recent Rugby World Cup, the Welsh strength and conditioning coach is now on England’s staff.
He took England into their tournament warm-up matches on the basis of intense training with the hope that sluggish results throughout the summer would pay off with energy deep into matches during the fall.
Rassie Erasmus, the director of rugby for South Africa, stated earlier in the week that he believed his coaching team had deftly controlled the workloads of their players by varying the players’ positions during the pool rounds of the tournament.
He dropped a suggestion that they would repeat the same strategy in the semi-final match. The following day, on Thursday, South Africa announced that they would be keeping the same XV that had competed against France.
In an interview with Rugby Union Daily, Bobby Skinstad, a former captain of South Africa’s team, remarked, “I didn’t see that coming.” “You took me by surprise. It was a very rough quarterfinal, and he has a lot of excellent players from which to chose. He also has a lot of options.
“I don’t know the analytics on each player and I am sure each of them is begging to be picked, but I thought maybe some guys deserved a bit of a breather.”
It would be interesting to hear Walters’ thoughts on whether or not his old employers have gotten that decision correct.
Comprehend the public servants.
In most cases, referees do not participate in the media rounds that take place during match week. Ben O’Keeffe was compelled to do it.
Antoine Dupont, the captain of France, voiced his displeasure with the performance of the New Zealander after South Africa’s victory. According to Dupont, the Springboks slowed down ruck ball, and he was dubious whether or not O’Keeffe’s performance “was up to the level of what was at stake.”
The generosity shown by O’Keeffe is much appreciated. “Players have the opportunity to give comments, and they may do so after the game is over. Things are uttered while tensions are high during a fight. “I’m sure that everything is going to be all right,” he remarked.
Throughout the competition, Erasmus has been on a social media charm offensive, praising O’Keeffe for his officiating during their defeat by Ireland in the pool stage and saying that his team is humbly listening to officials in order to learn more. Ireland defeated them.
However, coaches do have private conversations concerning the officiating of major matches, as we witnessed in the aftermath of the disputed series triumph over the British and Irish Lions in 2021.
“While coaches aren’t allowed to talk directly to officials in the week, there are channels to make representations to World Rugby about things they want to see in the game and how they want to see it officiated,” stated Chris Jones, the BBC’s rugby union correspondent.
“It is impossible to outwit Steve Borthwick in this situation. Because he cannot allow Rassie Erasmus to have World Rugby on speed dial all week, he just avoids talking to anyone about the sport.
“After the game, he must take precautions to ensure that he does not feel any regret. It is imperative that he take the initiative.”
It is possible that the breakdown, in which Tom Curry and Ben Earl will attempt to get possession of the ball before the South African back row, may be of special interest.