With South Africa coming to Twickenham fired up by the ban to director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and England seeking revenge for their 2019 World Cup loss Saturday is a powder-keg game ready to explode.
South Africa are fuelled by a sense of long-standing injustice – from not being awarded the 2023 World Cup, as France was preferred at the last minute, to seeing constant criticism of their style of play, to a perceived lack of respect shown towards them with no World Rugby award nominations this year – and the Erasmus result has their pot boiling over.
To sense how the Springboks will be feeling ahead of the England game, Sportsmail spoke to two 2019 World Cup-winning South Africans, Faf de Klerk and Francois Louw, to gain their insight into the clash.
England entertain South Africa with plenty of tension in the air ahead of the Twickenham clash
South Africa will mould the Rassie Erasmus situation to suit them. You’d have to. It won’t just be ‘we’re naughty, we’ll take our medicine’ – you create negative scenarios into ones that get you excited to push that much harder
Rassie is held in very high regard by the team and the world and I don’t believe he’s thrown his name away. He highlighted things that were evident, perhaps the manner wasn’t right, but we’re all grown up and I’m sure we can handle it.
If you can play on a story of us-against-the-world, proving the world wrong and that’s going to motivate you then play it through your mind 100 times. It’s a skill athletes use, taking adversity and turn it into their favour.
Teams, players and coaches pick and choose what they take out of the public domain, the media, and see a very different story.
South Africa are fired up after director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was handed a ban
Quite often you get to Test day and you’re not aware of what’s going on on Twitter, or in newspapers as you don’t expose yourself to it. But coaches can use stuff to motivate you ‘this is what the English journalists are saying, they don’t respect you’ or they might ignore it.
There’s a lot of mind-games being played in the media this week. I saw England saying they don’t view this as a redemption game from the 2019 final – I don’t buy that. It is personal. If the roles were reversed this would be as personal to the South Africans.
They’ll be talking very differently behind closed doors. I don’t think England should play down the redemption card – it’s a great one to have. Of course England have something to prove – it’s a huge occasion and they want to show the English fans they can beat the world champions, can play a style of rugby, the new faces can deliver.
England will think they’ve got to get South Africa back, ‘they’re not as good as they think they are’, and will create a story in their minds to help break them down mentally and emotionally.
England will think they have got to get South Africa back for their 2019 final defeat in Japan
South Africa triumphed in Asia and have placed a target on their own backs as the team to beat
Looking back at 2019, England were very excited about their semi-final performance. They expected to win as we’d lost the first game to New Zealand, and there was a ‘imagine what England will do to South Africa, if they did that to New Zealand’ feeling.
It’s tough at the top. People want to dethrone you, go after you. For South Africa the evidence of them being hard-done by is there if they want to use it.
Regarding World Player of the Year, I don’t know what the criteria is for nomination, but neither of the top two sides in the world, South Africa and New Zealand have a player on the list.
It doesn’t really stack up, you can’t tell me those are two groups of average players.
In terms of their game-plan I don’t think South Africa have ever pulled something out of the hat – they’re pretty much a same-way team, territory, aerial team and will come round the corner with five of our biggest boys and say ‘you’re either going to stop us, or not!’
There should not be any surprises when it comes to the Springboks’ game-plan in London
England’s forwards coach Matt Proudfoot is going to want to prove something, having been part of our team in 2019. I saw his comments about the young English forwards in the ‘Fight Club’ – that’ll fuel them a bit.
He’s going to want to impress. England have a massive inside scoop into the way the South African outfit operates with him.
But there’s no secret to how South Africa play. Watch a game and you’ve got the gameplan!
For South Africa they’re in the final game of what could be a clean-sweep tour.
All those elements make it exciting. To say this is another rugby game is not true.
FAF DE KLERK
Respect is a weird one – there are plenty of people who respect what the guys are doing, and what we’ve done. There’s always going to be people who want to prove others wrong.
There will always be negativity and positivity, you often just hear more of the negativity. The boys will be solely focused on the team, not what people expect of them. That’s the main point.
Faf de Klerk says that the Springboks have muted the outside noise in the media and online
You definitely try to ignore the criticism. Obviously it does filter into the group, but we believe in the way we play and the system. The main thing is once you have belief and buy-in from everybody you’re halfway there.
There is a lot of chat about our style of play but as players we love it. It doesn’t affect us when we run out on the field.
The type of players in the side now suit our style. They don’t want to come off second best in any encounter – it’s always a personal thing, if you carry the ball or make a tackle it’s you against them and you don’t want to walk off the field with your mates thinking you’re not physical enough. It’s a pride thing.
South Africa love to get physical and relish outmuscling their opponents on game day
The boys love to get physical with other sides, and there is nothing better than seeing you physically dominate a side. It does give you a massive boost.
The nice thing about winning the Lions series is that nobody gave us a chance to beat them. A lot of people thought we’d lose 3-0, a whitewash. We took that personally.
England are an awesome team, so it’s going to be a massive game. We lost at Twickenham in 2018 by one point, then won the World Cup against them, so we want to rectify that 2018 loss and they want to rectify the World Cup, so it’s a big challenge for both sides.