Paris — South Africa are two wins away from becoming the first team to win the Rugby World Cup four times with England their first opponents in Saturday’s semi-final.
It will be the sixth World Cup meeting between the two sides and the Springboks lead the English 4-1.
A potentially bad omen for the English is that three of those victories have come at Saturday’s venue the Stade de France.
“The rivalry has been around long before my time,” said Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. “They play hard.”
AFP Sport looks back on the previous five encounters between the two nations:
1999 – De Beer’s diamond display
England head coach Clive Woodward had said he wanted to be judged on the World Cup after an unimpressive year.
The unlikely figure of Jannie de Beer made him eat humble pie as the red-headed fly-half – only playing in the quarter-final due to first choice Henry Honiball having a hamstring issue – seized his opportunity with both hands at the Stade de France.
In just over half an hour of the second half he dropped an astonishing five drop goals to leave the English rocking and at the wrong end of a 44-21 defeat with de Beer’s total points haul, in a side including the ‘Boks present director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, 34.
“I lost a quarterfinal in 1999 to Jannie de Beer. I still have nightmares about it now,” said Woodward in 2015.
De Beer, 28 at the time, only played one more match for the Springboks, in the semi-final against eventual champions Australia, who restricted him to just one drop goal.
2003 – Razor-sharp Wilkinson gives Woodward revenge
Woodward survived despite his throwing down the gauntlet going badly awry – and as luck would have it, England were drawn in South Africa’s pool.
This time it was the English who pulled away to a comfortable win and their kicker who put the Springboks to the sword.
Jonny Wilkinson went through his whole bag of kicking tricks, converting Will Greenwood’s try, slotting over four penalties and dropping two goals for good measure.
Those two drop goals were sweet for both he and Woodward — but the sweetest one was yet to come in the final seconds of extra time in the final against Australia. It proved the England head coach had been right about being judged – he was just out by four years.
2007 – Montgomery gives woeful England their just deserts
This is not a match for present England head coach Steve Borthwick to recall with any pride, nor indeed his Irish counterpart Andy Farrell.
Yet again drawn in the same pool, Borthwick was on the bench and Farrell started at centre as both sides returned to the scene of the 1999 quarter-final, the Stade de France.
England were blown away by a rampant South Africa, who scored three tries in a 36-0 humbling and dashing blond-locked fullback Percy Montgomery contributed 18 points with the boot.
England captain Martin Corry put it best as he and his players stumbled off the pitch: “We are shellshocked.”
2007 – England pay the penalty in final
Incredibly given the pool result, head coach Brian Ashton managed to guide England to the final, defeating hosts France at the Stade de France in the semi-final.
The Springboks also reached the final, their first since the epic 1995 victory on home soil.
It was a far tighter affair than the pool match – happily for the England supporters – but ended 15-6 to the Boks.
Even England’s talisman Wilkinson could not manufacture another miracle.
The English had one brief moment of hope as Mark Cueto went over the line but he was judged to have had a foot in touch.
Once again it was Montgomery who did the damage with the boot scoring 12 of the Boks points.
“It is easy with hindsight to say ‘yes, that was the turning point’ but you just don’t know,” said Ashton of the Cueto ‘try’.
2019 – Springboks teach English a final lesson
The two sides met again 12 years later in the final, but the winner was the same.
The English – coached by Eddie Jones who had been on the wrong end as Australia handler of the Wilkinson drop goal in 2003 – were unable to repeat their remarkable performance from the semi-final when they outplayed the All Blacks.
The Springboks ran away with it in the end as kicker Handre Pollard contributed 22 points in the 32-12 victory.
For many captain Siya Kolisi symbolised the Springboks’ victory and it was he who Erasmus paid tribute to.
“There was a stage when Siya didn’t have food to eat and, yes, that is the captain and he led South Africa to hold this cup and that is what Siya is,” said Erasmus.
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