The Final: Eddie vs Rassie
Four have become 2 and England and South Africa line up in the RWC final this weekend to conclude what goes down as the best tournament in my memory. Not necessarily for the rugby or the results, but for the hosting spirit.
Years ago when Japan was awarded hosting rights I put it all down to marketing and optics. How wrong I was proved to be. The passion and especially hospitality from the Japanese to travelling teams and fans has been unmatched in anything I have ever seen. Arigato Japan.
On to the final. Eddie Jones and John Mitchell were spotted in the crowd at the Springbok v Wales semi final. Taking notes.
Frankly, if their notes consisted of one full page, it would be because at least half the page was filled with doodles. This Bok team is not one packed with surprises or clever nuanced tactics. There is no new dry powder keg about to be opened. In fact, Rassie could pretty much announce the Bok 23 for the final today. It would again have a 6-2 bench split. The Springboks only have 2 weapons. A brutal pack, and an equally brutal defense. Match the first, and unpick the second and you can beat the Boks.
And that is what we have to look forward to. Rassie is a clever innovative coach, but he is a novice compared to the experienced and wily Eddie Jones. And Jones has the resources and coaching nous to deal with the Boks. The English forwards have the personnel to match South Africa, and they have an attacking structure that can get the ball to the edges fast enough to outflank the Bok rush defence.
Certainly, on the strength of rugby performances produced by each team in their respective semi-finals, England are definite favourites.
But South Africans are strange beasts. They really don't know when they are supposed to be beaten. In their semi with Wales they had 40% possession and made double the tackles that Wales had to make. For them taking and causing pain in a defensive effort is more energizing than it would be for any other team. They seem to thrive on it. If England allows it to come down to an arm wrestle, don't count the Boks out just yet.