England’s ‘in awe of the physicality they brought’ Springboks verdict

Kevin Sinfield has warned England not to be too fixated on the threat posed by star Springboks players in next Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Steve Borthwick’s team began work on the training ground in the French city on Monday after traveling by train from Marseille after their quarterfinal victory over Fiji. This matchup pits the two teams that competed in the 2019 World Cup final in Yokohama against each other in the last four.

After defeating the host country, France, last Sunday, South Africa won 32–12 on that November day four years ago. There is a lot of excitement about the formidable challenge that South Africa will present to England going into this rematch.

For example, one of their standout players at Stade de France was Cheslin Kolbe, but when challenged about the threat posed by the South African winger, Sinfield advised England to concentrate on the opponents as a unit.

“The back three, regardless of their selection, possess exceptional energy and quickness,” he remarked on Tuesday night following the conclusion of England’s first training session in preparation for the semifinal.

This week, it’s critical for us to strike the correct balance between comprehending South Africa’s strengths and strategies as well as theirs.

“It would be quite easy for us to be completely blown away by how good they are so there will be some individuals we will prepare for. We won’t be sharing that with you guys [the media].

England head into the semi-finals with the best tackle success rate of all four teams – 86 per cent – but defence coach Sinfield reckoned this will need to be better if they are to dethrone the reigning champion. “I didn’t know that stat, I’d like it to be higher. I want us to keep improving,” he said.

“If we are going get near South Africa at the weekend that number needs to be massively increased I would suggest. The last couple of weeks we faced two teams that wanted to throw the ball about.

“We knew Fiji would have a purple patch where they would cause us problems. We prepared for a spell where we would be under the cosh, and in the end although it got very tense towards those last few minutes.


“It was probably another challenge for this group to have to face to have a big lead and then have it chopped down and to be able to find a way to win.

“We are coming up against a team that has probably got the best defence in the world at the minute. South Africa have been together a long time, they are really well drilled. It’s an aggressive defence and we look forward to coming up against them at the weekend.”


Another stat – that South Africa have kicked the ball away the least compared to their style in the last World Cup; just 21.6 kicks per game and just 51 per cent of possession kicked away – was also put to Sinfield. “They have added to the game,” he suggested.

“When you look at the line-up and some of the stars; I have been fortunate to work with a couple of them back at Leicester. You look across that backline and they can hurt you in a whole host of ways.

“They are a run threat, they are a kick threat, they have got an incredible set-piece, they have got unbelievable defence, do you want me to keep going? We know what we’re up against this week but really excited by the challenge.

“They are a top team. We saw the game on Sunday evening, we are in awe of the physicality that they brought. France certainly turned up too and it was a great showcase for what rugby is about.

“We knew whoever we met at this point it would be a tough challenge with the draw, it was either the hosts or the current holders and we have the utmost respect for them.

“They are a nation that plays the best rugby and plays some great rugby and they know what they are about and they don’t shy away from it and we look forward to the test.

England had a number of players – including Marcus Smith – only doing modified training on Tuesday, a situation that didn’t worry Sinfield.

“We did a few warm-ups without modifications today, but we are optimistic that all 33 will be ready. Smith is a good guy. He is one of those who has undergone modification, so perhaps he will be okay by the time we get a better look at him later this week.

It’s typical. We haven’t run since the game (against Fiji) till today. It was better that they avoided the exercise at first because some of them are the best footballers. Some of them are a little older, so we have to be a little more cunning to get them ready for training, but it’s nothing unusual for us.




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