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Five of the best: England v South Africa matches

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Five of the best: England v South Africa matches
Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - South Africa Training - Arcs Urayasu Park, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan - October 30, 2019 South Africa's Cheslin Kolbe during training REUTERS/Edgar Su   -   Copyright  EDGAR SU(Reuters)
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By Nick Mulvenney

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) – Brief descriptions of five key matches between South Africa and England ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Yokohama International Stadium:

The countries have played 42 tests with South Africa winning 25 and England 15. There have been two draws.


South Africa won the game’s biggest prize for the second time after a try-less World Cup final in which they never needed to move away from the safety-first approach that got them there.

Fullback Percy Montgomery kicked four penalties and centre Francois Steyn added a fifth but the match turned on referee Alain Rolland’s decision to rule out a try from England’s Mark Cueto soon after halftime.

A clean break from centre Mathew Tait got England down to the South Africa line and Cueto went over in the corner but Rolland reviewed the television footage and decided the winger’s foot had strayed into touch before he got the ball down.


The second match of England’s World Cup title defence was a pool-stage thrashing and followed two heavy defeats to the Springboks in South Africa in June internationals that year.

South Africa exposed the frailties of the reigning champions in clinical fashion, with winger JP Pietersen crossing twice, flanker Juan Smith once and fullback Percy Montgomery adding 18 points from the boot.

While the Springboks stormed through the rest of their pool matches, England recovered from their heaviest defeat at the World Cup to stun Australia in the quarter-finals, beat France in the semis and join them in the final (see above).


A tight Rugby World Cup Pool C tussle was tied 6-6 at halftime and England only broke clear in the 63rd minute when centre Will Greenwood scored the sole try of the game against the run of play.

England flanker Lewis Moody charged down a clearance kick from Springboks flyhalf Louis Koen and Greenwood showed his footballing skills to get the ball over the line and touch down.

Johnny Wilkinson, the England flyhalf, kept up his 100% record at the tournament with four penalties, a conversion and two late drop goals that took the match beyond the reach of the Springboks.

Not the most fluent performance from eventual champions England but it all but secured them a place in the quarter-finals as pool winners.


This humiliating low for the Springboks came after lock Jannes Labuschagne had been sent off in the 23rd minute for a late shoulder charge on England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson.

The brutality with which the South Africans approached the contest shocked many and there was scant sympathy as they fell to their heaviest test defeat.

England scored seven tries as they shored up their credentials ahead of their run to a maiden World Cup triumph in Australia the following year.


A remarkable kicking display from flyhalf Jannie de Beer ultimately enabled South Africa to blow out the scoreline in what had been a tight quarter-final at the Stade de France.

De Beer’s faultless kicking contributed 34 points to his team’s tally and his five drop goals were unprecedented in the test game.

The defending champions also had tries from scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen and winger Pieter Rossouw as they eased into a semi-final against Australia, which they would lose to a Stephen Larkham drop goal in extra time.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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