SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus predicted a tough Rugby World Cup semi-final against England in Paris on Saturday and said their form in the competition plus how well balanced the teams were in several aspects paved the way for a grinding contest.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup finalists will meet each other at the Stade de France at 21h00 on Saturday in the second semi-final, with Argentina and New Zealand facing off in the first semi-final on Friday night. Erasmus said correctly performing the fundamentals of the game would be particularly important at this stage of the competition.
With the Springboks’ 2019 RWC winning strength and conditioning coach Aled Walters now in the England camp, Erasmus said they would be tested from a fitness perspective, but all around as well.
“We know how fit Aled will have them, and some of our players play in the England Premiership, but over and above that Steve Borthwick (England head coach) is a good coach,” said Erasmus.
“We’ll train and prepare as hard as we can this week because it’s going to be a very tough test against a team that hasn’t lost a game. So, we know what we are in for.”
Erasmus added: “If you look at England and South Africa statistically, they are very close in terms of the number of tries scored and conceded, and in terms of defense.
“To be honest, I was quite surprised so many tries were scored in the quarterfinals, but as we get closer to the final, the fundamental areas of the game will become more important.”
Erasmus was pleased with the way the Springboks had managed to balance the training and playing load of the players, and he expected a similarly rested England squad.
“We’ve spread the load with player minutes. We know this is definitely going to be a close match, but we are in a fortunate situation in that all 33 players are not showing injuries and should be available for selection.”
Looking back at the quarter-final, which the Boks won 29-28, Erasmus said it was a true rugby Test.
“If the French had won the game, the team and coaches would have been as happy as we are,” said Erasmus.
“And they would have deserved it, just as we did. Tactically and physically, we pushed each other until the end. And I must commend the French coach (Fabien Galthie) for the respect he had for us after the game. He was humble and sincere.”
The Springboks had Monday off to recover and move hotels in Paris and will return to the training field on Tuesday.