Rugby

Revisiting five of the best England vs. South Africa test matches

by Nick Mulvenney

Reuters

Brief descriptions of five key matches between South Africa and England ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at International Stadium Yokohama:

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

2007 — South Africa 15, England 6

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

Fullback Percy Montgomery kicked four penalties and center 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 center 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.

2007 — South Africa 36, England 0

In Paris, the second match of England’s World Cup title defense 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 Montgomery adding 18 points from the boot.

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

2003 — England 25, South Africa 6

In Perth, Australia, a tight Rugby World Cup Pool C tussle was tied 6-6 at halftime and England only broke clear in the 63rd minute when center 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.

Jonny Wilkinson, the England flyhalf, kept up his 100 percent 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 champion England but it all but secured it a place in the quarterfinals as the pool winner.

2002 — England 53, South Africa 3

In Twickenham, England, 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’s 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 it shored up its credentials ahead of its run to a maiden World Cup triumph in Australia the following year.

1999 — South Africa 44, England 21

In Paris, a remarkable kicking display from flyhalf Jannie de Beer ultimately enabled South Africa to blow out the scoreline in what had been a tight quarterfinal 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 semifinal against Australia, which they would lose to a Stephen Larkham drop goal in extra time.

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