England look to halt the title defense of the reigning champions – Springboks

Rugby World Cup 2023

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The finalists from four years ago – and the finalists from the last time that Rugby World Cup was hosted by France – meet a round earlier in 2023.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has kept faith with the starting XV and bench that beat France at the same venue last Sunday. Cobus Reinach and Duane Vermeulen keep their places at scrum-half and number eight respectively.

Siya Kolisi, meanwhile, will captain the side for the 11th time in a Rugby World Cup match, equalling John Smit’s record.

For England, Joe Marler and George Martin come in at loose-head prop and second-row respectively, replacing Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum, who drop to the bench. Freddie Steward is recalled at full-back in place of Marcus Smith.

In total, 26 of the 43 players from the Rugby World Cup 2019 final are back for another go in Saint-Denis in 2023 – with Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and captain Owen Farrell starting for England then and now; and Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Vermeulen, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe and Kolisi doing the same for the Springboks.

GROUND: Stade de France (80,023)

KICK-OFF: 22nd October – 12.30 AM (SL Time)

FIXTURE HISTORY

The first game between England and South Africa was in December 1906 at Crystal Palace. It ended 3-3. The semi-finalists have played one another 44 times since. The Springboks have won 27 times, including four of five Rugby World Cup matches, of which two were finals. England have won 16 times. Their only Rugby World Cup win came in the pool phase of the 2003 tournament.

MEMORABLE MATCH

England started as favourites against South Africa in the final of Rugby World Cup 2019. But it was Siya Kolisi who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, after a clinical and controlled Springbok performance built on forward power and Handré Pollard’s boot, and finished with the magic of wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.

KEY TALKING POINT

South Africa’s kicking tactics so far. Manie Libbok and the Springboks have enjoyed notable success with their high bombs this tournament – particularly against France last Sunday. England clearly expect more of the same – it’s in part why Freddie Steward has been recalled to England ranks for this match: to combat an expected high-ball threat and chew-up ground in reply.

PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD

Maro Itoje v Eben Etzebeth. Itoje has missed just 10 minutes of game-time across his total career tests against the Springboks for England and the British and Irish Lions combined. He tests himself, again, here against arguably the best second-row in the world right now, a player who is in an impressive run of form.

STATS-AMAZING

South Africa scored three tries in the first half of last Sunday’s quarter-final against France, despite spending only 99 seconds of the opening 40 minutes with the ball in Les Bleus’ half.

Etzebeth scored their decisive fourth try, in the second half. It was his third touchdown in eight matches, a record that amounts to something of a spree for the second-row, who scored just three times in his first 110 tests.

REF WATCH

Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand). Having taken charge of South Africa’s quarter-final win over France last weekend, O’Keeffe returns for his first-ever Rugby World Cup semi-final, and his fifth match of the tournament. He was also the referee for the Springboks’ 42-39 win over England in June 2018.

TEAMS

ENGLAND Freddie Steward; Jonny May, Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly; Owen Farrell (captain), Alex Mitchell; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Dan Cole; Maro Itoje, George Martin; Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Ben Earl

Replacements: Theo Dan, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Chessum, Billy Vunipola, Danny Care, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence

SOUTH AFRICA Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Cobus Reinach; Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Handré Pollard, Willie le Roux

Watch the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2023 LIVE on Sri Lanka’s Number One Sports Channel – ThePapare TV on Dialog Television Channel 126.