South Africa have begun their underhand tactics to derail England ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final as Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has named the starting line-up he believes Steve Borthwick will roll with for the showdown. The reigning Rugby World Cup champions booked their place in the last four after defeating France on Sunday, with England seeing off Fiji in their last-eight encounter hours earlier.
Erasmus addressed the media on Tuesday to preview Saturday’s contest and came armed with a piece of paper which had his predicted England team written on it. But the 50-year-old couldn’t decide whether Marcus Smith would keep his place at full-back or whether Borthwick would recall Freddie Steward.
“Now, we’re guessing, obviously,” Erasmus explained. “We took the basic guys – [Ellis] Genge, [Jamie] George, [Kyle] Sinckler, [Maro] Itoje, [Ollie] Chessum, [Courtney] Lawes, [Tom] Curry, [Ben] Earl, [Alex] Mitchell, [Owen] Farrell, [Elliot] Daly, [Manu] Tuilagi, [Joe] Marchant, [Jonny] May, Marcus Smith or [Freddie] Steward. That’s who we think, but we might be totally wrong.
“Firstly, guessing their team – it’s interesting. Marcus, will he or Freddie play? Marcus has the massive X-factor, while Freddie is unbelievable under the high ball.
“Will Owen play inside centre with Tuilagi outside or will Ford play fly-half and drop-goal everything there? They’ve got Courtney who can play lock and flank, he’s been such a rock at flank for them and they have the energy of the other two young loose forwards.
“They bring energy on the field in all departments. They’ve got Sinckler there, Jamie and so many experienced players who played against us last time. I think because they played us end of year last year, and they played us at the Rugby World Cup and Rugby World Cup final, and I think they’ll have some beef with us.
“I think they’ll be very physical, they’ll definitely step it up in all set phases and then they have a team full of… Tuilagi – it’ll be a big job to stop him regardless of what position he plays. Then you have Farrell, and the new scrum-half and I’m sure Danny Care and Ben Youngs will be in the mix.
“But the new scrum-half is certainly someone who can light it up with his breaks around the rucks. There’re threats all over the park and it’s starting to get together for Borthwick.”
England have only ever beaten South Africa once at the Rugby World Cup and have lost to the Springboks in four other encounters at previous editions of the tournament. And Erasmus may already feel his team have the psychological edge as South Africa defeated England in the 2007 and 2019 finals to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.