Despite a fantastic semi-final performance from Steve Borthwick’s side, the Springboks denied them a spot in the final.
England, 2003 World Champions and 2019 finalists, came up against three-time winners and current World Champions South Africa in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals. Steve Borthwick’s side came into this game looking to qualify for two consecutive finals for the first time since England did just that themselves in 2003 and 2007. They were 20 – 17 winners in 2003 before losing 15 – 6 in the 2007 World Cup.
Now, in 2023, Borthwick’s England was making steady progress through the competition. They were allocated Pool D alongside Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile. They won all four matches, beating Argentina 27 – 10, Japan 34 – 12, Chile 71 – 0 and Samoa 18 – 17. After sitting at the summit of Pool D with 18 points, they were drawn against Fiji in the Quarter Final.
It was a tense and enthralling match against Fiji at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Borthwick’s England side emerged victorious, narrowly winning the game with a score line of 30 – 24.
England knew it would be a very tough test against the reigning World Champions, and they would also be seeking revenge for their defeat by the Springboks in the 2019 World Cup Final.
Before we review the game itself, the teams that both nations put out to win a place in the Final against New Zealand were as follows:
England’s Starting XV: 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 (Vice-Captain), Tom Curry & Ben Earl.
Replacements: Theo Dan, Ellis Genge (Vice-Captain), Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Chessum, Billy Vunipola, Danny Care, George Ford (Vice-Captain) & Ollie Lawrence.
South Africa’s Starting XV: Paul Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Manie Libbok, Cobus Reinach, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit & Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Handrè Pollard & Willie Le Roux.
Now, we move on to the game itself. Steve Borthwick’s England got off to an excellent start when Captain Owen Farrell gave his team an early 3 – 0 lead over South Africa after successfully scoring his penalty kick (3’). He extended England’s lead further with another penalty a few minutes later to make it 6 – 0 (9’).
Mannie Libbok did manage to halve the deficit for South Africa with a penalty of his own (21’), but England promptly regained their 6-point lead with yet another successful penalty from Owen Farrell (24’).
England were reeled in again by their opponents just before 40 minutes had elapsed when Handre Pollard converted a penalty kick to make it 9 – 6 (35’). However, just like the last time that Borthwick’s team were pegged back, they responded quickly again, with Farrell scoring another penalty to extend his side’s advantage to 12 – 6 (39’). This is how the score line stayed for the half-time interval.
Then, early in the second half, the in-form Farrell looked to have put England in the driving seat for a historic victory when his fantastic drop goal made it 15 – 6 (53’). Optimism was now high for England, but the remainder of the second period would still be tense.
Proceedings were made even more nerve-wracking and tense with ten minutes to go when South Africa reduced the deficit to just two points after RG Snyman successfully scored a try before there was a successful conversion by Handre Pollard (70’). It was now 15 – 13 to England.
It was to be heartbreak for Steve Borthwick’s England in the final few moments of the match when Handre Pollard scored a penalty kick to put South Africa in the lead for the first time in the game (77′). The final whistle blew, and England suffered a 15 – 16 defeat.
It was still an excellent and resilient performance from England, who were so close to securing a spot in the Final. There is a lot that Borthwick and his team can take from this game, and they still have one game remaining against Argentina in the bronze final to decide third place on Friday, 27th October. The game will be played at the Stade de France in Paris, with the game getting underway at 8pm.
Courtney Lawes has also announced that he will retire from international rugby once the 2023 World Cup ends.
Following the World Cup, the eyes of England will be on the upcoming 2024 Guinness Six Nations, which take place from Friday, 2nd February to Saturday, 16th March 2024. England have won the Six Nations on 7 occasions, in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2011, 2016, 2017 and in 2020.
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