Preview: England v South Africa

Last month Japan enthroned their new emperor and now in Yokohama on Saturday a new world champion will be unveiled.

Last month Japan enthroned their new emperor and now in Yokohama on Saturday a new world champion will be unveiled.

England and South Africa stand 80 minutes away from history.

It has been quite a journey for both these teams, Eddie Jones’ revolution rose from the ashes of England’s pool stage exit four years ago.

Rassie Erasmus has worked his wonders in even less time, two years ago the Springboks were down at eighth in the world rankings and looked a long way from potential world champions.

On the evidence of the last six weeks, and in particular last weekend’s semi-finals, England are going to take some stopping on Saturday.

The rankings reflect their rise to No.1 and the clinical way they dispatched the All Blacks in the semi-finals has sent England fans scurrying to travel agents.

Everyone wants to sample a slice of history that awaits them this weekend, but the Boks are not here just to make up the numbers.

They have played two finals before, and won them both. They will look to spoil the party, both World Cup victories saw no tries scored and none conceded.

A similarly stubborn defensive showing this weekend is needed to frustrate a free-flowing England who are looking to complete the SANZAAR sweep after knocking off Argentina in the pool stages and Australia and the All Blacks in the knockouts.

England named an unchanged starting XV this weekend, the first time in three years under Jones and the real boost there is that Kyle Sinckler and Jonny May are fit and firing after semi-final scares.

The Boks are similarly settled, their Bomb Squad of replacements add sizable impact and they have talisman Cheslin Kolbe back after an ankle injury saw him miss the semi-finals.

This will be the last Test in charge for Erasmus before moving upstairs to a directorial role, while referee Jérôme Garcès takes charge of his first final on his final Test outing.

It all comes down to this then, for both England and South Africa and the watching rugby world, there is no tomorrow.

England v South Africa, World Cup Final, Yokohama, November 2, Kick Off 9AM (GMT)

England head coach Eddie Jones: “We’ve had four years to prepare for this game. We’ve got good tactical clarity about how we want to play, we’re fit, we’re enjoying the tournament – the only sadness is that the tournament is going to end.

“We’re having a great time, we want it to continue, but it comes to an end so we’ve got one more opportunity to play well. So we want to play with no fear on Saturday, just get out there and play the game.

“We’ve got meet their physicality but we are looking forward to that and being able to impose our game on them.

“We can definitely play better, there’s no doubt about it. The players know that. I have been so impressed by the preparation of players throughout the tournament and particularly this week, there’s a steeliness about them but also a nice relaxed feeling because they know they’ve done the work so they can get on with the job.

“There has been no higher expectation than within the team. We started out [in early 2016] wanting to be the best team in the world. Three weeks ago we were hopeless, I was going to get the sack, Owen couldn’t kick a goal [in the Argentina game]. So we don’t tend to listen to the external noise. The boys know what’s ahead of them, everyone knows what’s at stake.”

South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus: “In ’95, I was a student in Bloemfontein, and we were staying on the rugby fields there by the university grounds – I was sharing a house with Naka Drotské, who was playing in the World Cup final.

“We were all watching the game at the university rugby grounds, which is where I was in 1995.

“We all know what impact that had for our country. Should we win it on Saturday – it is already having a big impact for us, having been a little bit more successful.

“In South Africa, we need that, and we can feel that.

“That is definitely for us an extra motivation for Saturday, that we know we are trying to win for us 23 (players), but that is the last thing whom we are trying to win for.

“We are trying to win for South Africa, and not just because they are supporters, but because our country needs a lot of things that we want to fix, and we want to help fix that.”

The battle on the blindside will make for compelling viewing.

Both men have been nominated for World Rugby’s Men’s 15s Player of the Year – a shortlist of only six men.

Curry is an openside by trade, who has played every minute of this tournament for England across the entire back row.

At the age of only 21, he has proven an all-rounder of extraordinary class.

Du Toit is a textbook blindside by contrast, South Africa’s top tackler, counter rucker and all-round nuisance.

If he can slow down England’s attacking train, then the Springboks might just derail their title tilt.

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Billy Vunipola Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jonathan Joseph

South Africa: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph Du Toit, 8 Duane Vermeulen Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn