TOKYO (Reuters) – South Africa are expecting George Ford to play flyhalf again in the Rugby World Cup final with England captain Owen Farrell outside him after the pair were impressive in their demolition of New Zealand in the semi-finals, according to Handre Pollard.
England coach Eddie Jones had surprisingly dropped Ford to the bench for their quarter-final against Australia, then reinstated his 10-12 partnership with Farrell for the semi-final against the All Blacks in Yokohama on Saturday.
Ford was increasingly influential in the second half as he kept New Zealand pinned inside their own territory before England ended the All Blacks 18-match World Cup winning streak with a superb 19-7 victory.
The 26-year-old also took over the goal kicking from Farrell, who was injured early in the game, and slotted four penalties, and Pollard was impressed with what he saw.
“They’ll probably go Ford-Farrell again, its a pretty good combo,” South Africa’s flyhalf Pollard said. “It doesn’t get much better than that but we’ll see in the week.”
Pollard was equally influential in his own side’s 19-16 victory over Wales in the second semi-final on Sunday as he also slotted four penalties.
While the Springboks backs and loose forwards would look at the influence Ford and Farrell, they were only a small part of the approach they would need to consider on Saturday in Yokohama, Pollard added.
“We won’t prepare around that (combination), we’ll prepare around the bigger picture,” Pollard added.
“They played unbelievably well. Physically they stepped it up to a new level. We’re going to have to stop them.
“Its going to be another gain-line battle and its two sides that pride themselves on a good kicking game as well.
“It’s going to be a good chess match.”
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus was also impressed with the way England had “dismantled” New Zealand in the semi-final and he was certain they were a different side from that which beat the Springboks 12-11 at Twickenham last November.
“We have played England four times in the last 18 months and it is 2-2. So we are accustomed to the way they play,” Erasmus said. “They are much better than when we last played them. You could see it.”
The breakdown battle would also be immense, according to number eight Duane Vermeulen, with the twin openside flankers of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill a nuisance over the ball and destructive in the tackle.
“They were fantastic, they got a hell of a lot of turnovers. That puts a team on the front foot,” Vermeulen added.
“It’s going to be difficult for us. We’re definitely going to spend a little bit of time on the breakdown but we’re pretty happy with the way things are going.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Alison Williams)