Five South Africans to watch on Saturday
The biggest prize in the sport is on the line on Saturday.
South Africa are chasing their third world crown, while England their second.
The Boks’ last two world titles came in 1995 and 2007, two years before British & Irish Lions Tours.
And with Warren Gatland’s Lions heading to South Africa again in two years time, the history books suggest they might just do it again.
Faf de Klerk
South Africa’s game plan in Japan starts, and often ends, with their diminutive scrum-half.
A box-kicker of extraordinary quantity, and no little quality, the Sale Sharks No.9 will send the ball skywards all night long in Yokohama this weekend.
The Boks back their forward power to get them through the toughest exchanges, and it is De Klerk who has to put them in the right areas to get to work.
Also a phenomenal defender, and counter-attacking threat, De Klerk was one of England’s tormentors in chief last summer in their 2-1 Test series on the veld.
If he can edge ahead of Ben Youngs this weekend in their head to head battle, the Boks’ chances of victory significantly increase.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
One of the best players in the world this year, the blindside’s abilities have been recognised by a nomination for World Rugby’s 15s Men’s Player of the Year.
His head to head battle with Tom Curry – a fellow nominee this year – should make for fascinating viewing on Saturday.
Six players have been nominated for the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year 2019, in association with @Mastercard
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 1, 2019
Early on his international career Du Toit mixed and matched between the second and back rows. But it is since he found a permanent slot on the blindside that he has come into his own.
A fearsome tackler, a breakdown pest whose counter-rucking drove Wales to distraction, he has a huge job on his hands this weekend to slow England’s juggernaut of a pack.
Damian de Allende
The Stormers centre carries hard and often for the Boks.
Only Billy Vunipola across both matchday 23s has carried the ball more often over this tournament than De Allende.
He gave England nightmares in midfield a year ago at Twickenham, and will once again be Handre Pollard’s first option when they do get their ball of their forward pack.
His battle against George Ford, who so impressed against the All Blacks in defence, will be absolutely pivotal this weekend.
But De Allende is not just a piano shifter, he can twinkle with the best if given half an inch.
Francois Steyn becomes only the fourth man to play in two World Cup finals 12 years apart.
Os du Randt, Jason Leonard and Matt Giteau achieved the feat before him, but only his compatriot Du Randt has won both.
Steyn’s achievement is a testament to his versatility and also his durability.
Still only 32, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Montpellier man will still be hanging around for the Lions Tour in 2021.
His ability to cover almost every position in the back line allows Rassie Erasmus to pack his bench with six powerful forwards.
Like the man ahead of him in the pecking order De Klerk, Jantjies punches well above his weight.
After a breakthrough Super Rugby season for the Stormers, the No.9 has inserted himself flawlessly into the Boks’ matchday 23 this season.
His debut against Australia in the Rugby Championship saw him grab a double and then a week later he came off the bench to score the decisive late try to get a draw with the All Blacks.
World Rugby have nominated him for the Breakthrough Men’s Player of the Year as a result, and he will be itching to make an impact come Saturday.