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Rugby World Cup final expert tips: mad Boks and Englishmen

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Expert
30th October, 2019
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A replay of the 2007 decider and a playoff game that I still don’t see the point of… that’s the sum total ahead of us, heading into the last Rugby World Cup weekend for the next four years.

I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to just watching games without the stress and just enjoying the rugby for the rugby, and I will admit, it was nice. I felt a bit weird, but it was nice.

So I’ll definitely take that approach into this weekend again.

The two games this weekend will be intriguing for different reasons, but I can tell you one thing for sure: only one of them is worth taking notes for.

LAST WEEK: Everyone else and The Crowd 1; Brett 0.

OVERALL: The Crowd 40; Geoff and Digger 38; Nobes 36, Harry 35, Brett 33.

Digger
Tips: New Zealand, England

Two very contrasting teams and journeys make up our World Cup final this edition, and I am really looking forward to this clash.

It is difficult not to favour England, their form over the knockouts has been imperious, seemingly timing their run to the title with perfection while South Africa have scrapped and fought their way to be here, doing what they have too to have their third shot at the cup.

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South Africa certainly present a different challenge from their vanquished southern counterparts, they can play an expansive game but are currently favouring a more forward-orientated approach. Unlike Australia and New Zealand, they are likely to live with England up front, which makes this clash intriguing.

But Wales found too much space for my liking out wide in the semi-final and I cannot shrug the feeling England are better placed to take advantage. This, along with their overall form, has me leaning towards the roses.

For third and fourth, well, the All Blacks don’t get beaten twice in a row very often and one benefit of this match is it allows you a window to vent the frustration after bowing out in the semi-finals. Obviously, Wales have their own driving factors but given this will be the last game for a few long-term New Zealanders I believe it will be an All Blacks victory and possibly comfortably so.

Nobes
Tips: New Zealand, South Africa

Somehow two of my three candidates for the title reached the final. The two teams with more depth, more desire, personality, and quality coaching will face each other this weekend. Each have their style of play that will not change since it is the style that brought them to where they are.

England are very well driven by their halves, spicy backs, a solid first line with a good set of hands, and especially the five back forwards that use their mobility to make the rest play from good clear balls from the set pieces or turnovers.

Tom Curry and Sam Underhill celebrate

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

On the other hand, with a game not so colourful but effective, is South Africa with their traditional weapons. They are a very physical team that bases its game on defence with fierce tackles, and the air game. They have a good line and scrum to launch their game and press for their rival to make mistakes and capitalise on them. They will have to improve the defence when the attacks come from the open field and the fullback must improve his air game if they want to live up to the circumstances.

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My heart says South Africa but my brain calls for England, but remember I am “Nobrain” who cheers for the southern hemisphere and will not leave my friend Harry alone in this one.

The match for third place is not important if a team has been crowned champions in the past, but can matter to those who haven’t. This would make a case for Wales but it seems to me that they are not arriving in their best physical form and New Zealand must do something to say goodbye to this World Cup in the best way and to show that they still have an appetite to keep the destiny alive for the following years.

Geoff
Tips: New Zealand, England

On a global scale of human sadness, by any measure, a World Cup third place play-off probably doesn’t rank too highly. But it’s still a sad affair – nobody wants to be there, and it is an occasion to be endured, not savoured.

I fear that this year’s version will actually be worse than usual. Trying to engage with New Zealand and Wales is almost certain to be made insufferable by having Harry in my ear, demanding more beer and continually reminding me how good South Africa is.

Wales are a banged-up side on a short turnaround, against a team insisting upon sending Shag, Reado and others out on high note. No chance.

As I wrote earlier this week, I don’t believe the quality of the semi-finals has any real bearing on the outcome of the final. South Africa do match up well against England and will fancy their chances of slowing down their phase possession. In turn, they do not rely on fast ball themselves, nor panic when the game is slowed down.

I expect a titanic struggle, and South Africa to go close. But having a better balance to their game and a wee bit of Eddie factor tips my vote England’s way.

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Harry
Tips: New Zealand, South Africa

England’s neo-colonial assault on the southern hemisphere’s rugby superpowers continues this weekend. Having swept aside the de-fanged Pumas, swatted aside the madly hopping Wallabies, and then driven a stake through the All Blacks’ heart, the Sour Chariot will try to run the Green Mile over the broken glass that is Faf de Klerk, the ragged concrete of Duane Vermeulen, the mean streets of Eben Etzebeth and RG Snyman, and the minefield of the Bok bench.

We are asked to believe three propositions. One, Maro Itoje is rugby’s Messiah. Two, England’s one-try victory over New Zealand proves the Poms can save the soul and future of world rugby. And three, the underdog Boks can only win if they stop kicking so much. But why would any team stop doing what is working?

South Africa have beaten everyone except New Zealand by out-kicking them. I don’t mean quality, necessarily, because some of Faf’s box kicks are not just wounded ducks, but have already become duck soup. I mean sheer quantity – volume.

Faf De Klerk

(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

In the pool loss, the Boks kicked six fewer times than the All Blacks, and had too much possession (fleeting at times, due to dropped balls which turned into tries in seconds). In the draw in Wellington, on the other hand, the Boks kicked nine more times than the All Blacks, and only wanted 43 per cent of the ball.

The Boks kicked more times than Argentina (11 times more) in the five-try-to-one victory, more than Namibia, 11 times more than Canada, ten more than Japan (and 12 times more in the warm-up), and 12 times more than Italy en route to a prolific try-scoring season. You got the feeling that South Africa would have won easier in the quarter-final if they had not tried to run it back as much. Willie le Roux got isolated and turned over a crucial point, and Makazole Mapimpi also ran into trouble.

So, if it is not broken, don’t fix it. Boks by plenty.

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And Wales are done.

Brett
Tips: New Zealand, England

Two very easy tips for me this week. New Zealand won’t let Read, Crotty, Smith, Hansen et al finish their time with the All Blacks with a loss, and England look just too clinical.

That will be of great relief to South Africans, given my tipping form, but sadly that’s about all I can offer the Republic this weekend.

Eddie Jones has had this date circled in his diary for four years. His whole pitch for the England job was to win a Rugby World Cup, and here he is, 80 minutes away from delivering.

It will take a good chunk of those 80 minutes, but England have all the tools they will need to win: they’re great at the breakdown, efficient at set piece, sound in defence, and have arguably the best tactical kicking in the game.

As for the Who Cares Cup? Well, the ABs will win it, but I do wonder if there isn’t a better use for this game.

I have heard suggestions of a cup-style comp a la the Sevens World Series, and that could possibly work. New Zealand and Wales will play the game for the right reasons, and I’m sure it will be entertaining, and I’m still going to watch it.

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But I just don’t see the point in a game whose result will be forgotten so soon afterwards.

Final/Bronze Medal Digger Harry Geoff Brett Nobes Crowd
NZL vs WAL NZL NZL NZL NZL NZL NZL
ENG vs RSA ENG RSA ENG ENG RSA ENG
Last week 1 1 1 0 1 1
Total score 38 35 38 33 36 40