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England v South Africa Preview, Prediction & Best Bets

A titanic Test is in store at Twickenham on Saturday (17:15 SA time) as the Springboks square off against England in a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final

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A titanic Test is in store at Twickenham on Saturday (17:15 SA time) as the Springboks square off against England in a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Holy Grail of rugby won’t be up for grabs this time but these two proud giants will play as if it is, the hosts hell-bent on retribution for the painful 32-12 defeat in the global showpiece decider in Yokohama two years ago and the visiting world champions determined to complete an unbeaten end-of-year tour.

As were the case in their historic last meeting, both teams are high on momentum, England having won four on the trot and the Springboks three on the bounce. The men in green and gold’s winning run is the more impressive as it comprises victories over the All Blacks (32-29), Wales (23-18) and Scotland (30-15).

However, England last weekend did what South Africa couldn’t this season and that’s beat Australia to build on wins over the USA (43-29), Canada (70-14) and Tonga (69-3). Granted, the 32-15 victory came over a weakened Wallabies team, but it served its purpose as a step up in preparation for the Springboks.

On one hand, history points to South African having the edge in the head-to-head stakes with six wins in the last 10 Tests with one draw. On the other, it’s a reminder that the Twickenham factor is very real with England having won the last two showdowns at their fortress 25-10 and 12-11, both in 2018.

What’s more, the Springboks’ last two triumphs there were razor-thin – 16-15 in 2012 and 31-28 in 2014 – so that by itself should significantly narrow the 20-point gulf that separated the sides in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The other game-changing difference is the introduction of one Marcus Smith. The embattled Australians made things a lot easier for the English, who lacked sharpness, however, they offered a glimpse of their newfound x-factor courtesy of their prodigious flyhalf when he sparked an early try for Freddie Stewart.

The Springboks will be wary of the creativity and unpredictability Smith brings to the table, but having masterfully shut down similarly mercurial Scotland pivot Finn Russell last weekend, they’ll have a plan in place to nullify the 22-year-old.

Another important takeaway from the Wallabies game that’ll bleed into the Springbok battle was how effectively England shifted the point of contact. This, in theory, is imperative against a team with a pack of monsters. Looking to stretch them out wide is a far better strategy than attempting to fight fire with fire.

The problem lies in the Springboks’ renowned rush defence. They’re unrivalled in their ability to get off the line and limit space and time on the ball. They do so consistently, tirelessly and with an intensity as if their lives depend on it, and they should be able to keep a handle on things at Twickenham.

The battles at the Principality Stadium and Murrayfield would’ve taken their toll but the enviable distribution of that workload thanks to the Bomb Squad means the Springboks should be up for one last hurrah. They’ve also strengthened their starting XV with the Montpellier halfback pairing of Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard and the return of Lood de Jager.

England are the ones worse for wear with injuries to captain Owen Farrell and Jamie George. Losing the key duo is a massive double blow and they, too, should fall victim to the slow poison of the South Africans.


Prediction: South Africa by 5.

Suggested Bet: South Africa -1.5 at 1.82.

Value Bet: South Africa by 1-12 at 2.75.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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