Stars to watch out for in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final
After a month and a half of exhilarating action, the 2019 Rugby World Cup finally comes to a close.
The 2019 final will be a replay of the 2007 final that was contested between England and South Africa. The Springboks took home the Webb Ellis trophy 12 years ago, in a try-less game that was decided in extra time.
England will be looking to avenge that defeat. Looking at current form, they might just be able to do that and bring home a second Rugby World Cup.
Path to the final
Eddie Jones’s England are yet to lose in this World Cup.
Drawn in a group featuring France, USA, Tonga and Argentina, England defeated all of them except France. The clash with the continental rivals was cancelled due to the onset of Typhoon Hagibis.
England’s toughest clash, on paper, was with Argentina but it was Tonga, surprisingly, who gave Jones’ men the most trouble.
The English then took on Australia in a much-hyped quarter-final, where they got the better of the Wallabies, 40-16.
Jones’ finest moment, so far, has been orchestrating the defeat of the mighty All-Blacks in convincing fashion. The English took the game by the scruff of the neck and did not allow the defending champions to gain the upper hand.
Heading into the final, England have outscored their opponents, 178-43. South Africa, meanwhile, have scored the most points in this Rugby World Cup with 230. They have conceded 55 points in total. Do note that the Springboks have played one game more than the English.
Rassie Erasmus’ men are on the brink of history as they can equal the All Blacks’ haul of three Rugby World Cups. The Springboks can also become the first side to win the World Cup despite losing their opening group game (13-23 loss).
After the opening loss, South Africa responded well, dominating Namibia, Italy and Canada. They then took care of the hosts in the quarter-final before staving off a resilient Welsh side in the semis.
Stars to watch out for
Captain, leader and now, the haka-slayer.
It’s hard to understate Farrell’s importance to this side as his quality is such that he influences heavily on both ends.
Farrell is the leading point-scorer for England at this Rugby World Cup, with 46. After having a horror kicking show in the first-half against Argentina, the England captain has regained form and has scored penalties at an impressive clip of 89%. His conversion success stands at 73%.
Even if Farrell is not on kicking duty, he’s got a very able deputy in George Ford, who was in imperious form in the win over New Zealand.
Farrell is also an important contributor on the defensive end, thriving in disrupting the opposition’s rhythm. He has completed 49 tackles in this World Cup with a success rate of 74%. Farrell has averaged 3.5 tackles per game.
Looking at the form England and Farrell are in; we’re bound to see the famous Joining Jack salute in the final.
Tom Curry and Sam Underhill
You have to count the “Kamikaze Kids” together.
Curry and Underhill, have been the bedrock of England and Eddie Jones’ success in this tournament.
The back-row partnership has been a nuisance for opponents, as they’ve connected on tackle after tackle and helped force turnovers.
Curry has made 52 tackles in the tournament with a completion percentage of 88%. Underhill has posted similar figures – 62 tackles and an 89% completion rate. Curry has a tackle rate of 4.25 per game and Underhill, 3.25.
The Kamikaze Kids (if you’re Eddie Jones) or “Duracell Bunnies” (if you’re Billy Vunipola), set the tone for England’s performance. They’ll have to bring their A-game in the final to contend with a physically intimidating Springbok side.
Erasmus, meanwhile, will be hoping that his team can play tight enough to avoid the onslaught of the Kamikaze Kids.
With England expected to bring the offensive spark in the final, Watson will be key to unlocking a stubborn Bok defence.
Jonny May might have more tries in this Rugby World Cup, but Watson is the one who flummoxes opponents with his breakneck speed and physicality.
The Bath wing has scored one try in this tournament. It is his carry stats, however, that underline the threat he poses. In 38 carries, Watson has covered 365 metres – an average of 9.6 metres per carry.
Along with that, he’s been instrumental in nullifying opposing wings, making 23 tackles in the tournament with a completion rate of 96%.
A Makazole Mapimpi-Anthony Watson duel will be definitely be one to watch.
Faf de Klerk
South Africa’s scrum-half is a polarizing figure, to say the least. One could call his constant box-kicking, boring, unimaginative and a cheap way to give away possession. Another would cite that as an example of a safe play, which, does help a team on the defensive end.
Whatever might be your opinion of de Klerk, one thing’s for sure – his game management has, arguably, been the best we’ve seen at this World Cup.
200 passes in this tournament is no joke. The Sale scrum-half knows how to facilitate play better than anyone else in this tournament. He knows his part in Erasmus’ overarching strategy and plays it to the T.
Add to that his guile which allows him to dictate play with his infamous kicking. De Klerk’s tactical kicking and composure can frustrate the most well-oiled opposition and Jones will be wary of the damage he can do to blitz defenses.
South Africa’s “Mini-Hercules” is no stranger to getting his hands dirty – Jake Ball can attest to this. He’s been South Africa’s lynchpin in the knockout stages and will be “the guy” for them in the final.
Damian de Allende
Dan Biggar went up against de Allende and was subsequently injured.
At his best, de Allende is a center par excellence. His big frame and impressive physique, coupled with his quick burst of speed make him a formidable opponent to deal with.
The Panasonic Wild Knights star has established himself as Erasmus’ wrecking ball who does damage on both ends. He outclassed Biggar in the semi-final and also went on to score a try, powering his way through Wales’ much vaunted defense.
With both Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe starting, containing de Allende will be high on Jones and England’s priority list.
Kolbe was the star for South Africa in the group stages.
The Springboks’ highest try-scorer, however, is the lightning-quick Mapimpi. His five tries are the second-most in the tournament and there’s a high chance that he might equal (or surpass) Josh Adams’ figure of six.
With Kolbe back in the squad for the final and de Allende in the center, the Springboks’s offensive potency increases a lot.
England will have to be wary of South Africa’s plays which are designed to utilize Mapimpi’s tireless running on the wing. They’ll need to make sure that the electric wing is covered adequately, because once he takes flight, there’s no stopping him.