Springboks stick to Erasmus’ game plan to down England

South Africa’s Rugby team celebrates with the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the World Cup Final in Yokohama on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2019

Springboks stick to Erasmus’ game plan to down England

  • Raucous spectacle opens to the boom of Japanese drums and flames shooting into the evening sky

TOKOHAMA, Japan: South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus might have been criticized for his team’s “boring” game plan going into the Rugby World Cup final, but his side delivered perfectly with a dominant 32-12 victory over England on Saturday.

In victory, the Springboks demonstrated a perfect mix of brutal pragmatism and electric finishing based around an all-important dominant set piece and the kicking machines that are Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard.

A kickfest had been predicted for the final and — two blistering second-half tries from Bok wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe aside — so it proved as Pollard and Owen Farrell traded penalties early on.

But there was no lack of bite in a hard-hitting contest of gladitorial standards that left the players bloodied and bruised in a shocking advert for the attritional quality of Test match rugby.

Even after six weeks of competition, there was no holding back from the two teams that have prided themselves on their physically confrontrational styles of play.

England prop Kyle Sinckler went off after just three minutes, left prone after a hitting his head in a tackle.

There was a double blow in the 22nd minute for the Boks when lock Lood De Jager departed with a shoulder injury and hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi was replaced as he underwent a Head Injury Assement following a tackle on Courtney Lawes.

A key point came halfway through the first half when wave after wave of brutal English attack was repelled, the Herculean Boks left panting on their line through exertion.

England lock Maro Itoje then flattened Vermeulen and Damian de Allende, the sound of the two sickening impacts clearly audible from the stands with renditions of “Swing Low” interrupted by gasps as the crowd visibly squirmed in their seats.

The raucous spectacle, opened by loud Japanese drumming and flames shooting into the evening sky, was how one might imagine a battle in a Roman ampitheater.

Flamethrowers erupted every time a penalty went over, fans baying with delight when an Itoje or Vermeulen threw themselves, seemingly with reckless abandon, into another tackle or drive forward.

The on-field attrition also came in the set-piece, as the Boks turned the screw at scrum-time, Sinckler’s replacement Dan Cole struggling badly to cope with veteran Tendai Mtawarira.

The second-half started just as the first ended, flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit — one of the nominees for World Player of the Year — put in two thumping tackles in quick succession on George Ford.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, named as the country’s first black skipper by Erasmus last year, was omnipresent in a back-row in which Vermeulen also outshone England’s vaunted “kamikaze kids” pairing of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.

De Klerk and Pollard kept England pinned back and the pressure continued to mount.

And after all the grind, it was fitting that two of the most exciting players at the World Cup, Bok wingers Makazole and Kolbe, scored a try apiece, justifying the team’s total belief in and execution of the no-nonsense gameplan devised by Erasmus.


Steady Nadal beats animated Kyrgios in 4 at Australian Open

Updated 27 January 2020

Steady Nadal beats animated Kyrgios in 4 at Australian Open

  • Top-ranked Nadal kept his thoughts to himself and limited his shot-making to the more traditional variety
  • Nick Kyrgios delivered 25 aces and some memorable moments

MELBOURNE, Australia: Rafael Nadal left the muttering and the preening, the underarm serving and the ‘tweening, to his younger, flashier opponent, Nick Kyrgios.
Surely, Nadal was content to collect the win in the latest installment of their rivalry.
The No. 1-ranked Nadal kept his thoughts to himself and limited his shot-making to the more traditional variety in an entertaining 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory over home-crowd favorite Kyrgios on Monday to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals and get closer to a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title.
Here’s how the elevated stakes and tension affected both men: At 5-all in the pivotal third-set tiebreaker, Kyrgios double-faulted. That offered up a gift-wrapped set point. But Nadal failed to take advantage because he double-faulted right back.
Still, two points later, the 23rd-seeded Kyrgios put a forehand into the net, and the set was Nadal’s. Not long after, Kyrgios double-faulted again to get broken at love.
That put Nadal ahead 2-1 in the fourth, seemingly in control. He faltered, though, while serving for the win at 5-4, double-faulting to create a pair of break points, the second of which Kyrgios converted with a jumping forehand and celebrated by throwing his head back and screaming. Spectators rose and roared and waved their Australian flags in support of the 24-year-old from Canberra.
Kyrgios delivered 25 aces and some memorable moments — including walking out on court and warming up for the match in a No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey to honor Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star who died in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41.
Nadal was just the better player overall. One measure: Nadal finished with more than twice as many winners, 64, as unforced errors, 27.