Forget the result of the last World Cup final – history will play little or no role when defending champions South Africa take on England on Saturday in the last four of this year’s tournament.
England have made the semi-finals so they cannot be completely rubbish – but they are not great.
But before we get too deep into analysing that encounter, South Africa’s quarter-final against France was everything you expect from two quality sides.
Both teams have big, powerful ball carriers and a good kicking game so it was always going to be one of those massive games of really big collisions.
It was brutal.
I thought a few decisions went our way. You have to take the luck when it comes and I would imagine that, for once, Rassie Erasmus is not going to be making a video.
But I also thought the tactical changes just after half-time by Erasmus or Jacques Nienaber, whoever makes those decisions, were sensational.
When Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen went off, I thought “what are they doing?” But on came Deon Fourie and Kwagga Smith, two guys who are unbelievable at the breakdown, and all of a sudden, with France having to chase it a bit, we slowed the ball down, won a few turnovers, won a few penalties. Tactically, we got it spot on.
It was not just one element that won us the game, it was a number of things. That includes Cheslin Kolbe charging down Thomas Ramos’ attempted conversion. We never see that.
He had a go, was determined and gutsy. It was wonderful.
‘A great advert for our wonderful game’
The Rugby World Cup has seen quite a few incredible quarter-finals over the years and the Springboks against Les Bleus was certainly one of them.
But I think the two games in Paris – New Zealand beating Ireland and South Africa seeing off France – are probably the greatest back-to-back quarter-finals.
The other two games were exciting but maybe not as intense. Certainly they were not as physical or confrontational.
The discipline from the four teams in Paris was incredible and the quality sensational.
Ultimately, we had two great spectacles and a great advert for our wonderful game.
I have to admit, I felt so bad for France, because the atmosphere in the country has been wonderful. They really embrace their team and had such high hopes, so it is a little bit sad. But obviously I am delighted the Boks found a way.
The messages I received from back home contained what I would describe as exhausted relief!
‘I cannot see the Farrell decision being reversed’
England were a bit Jekyll and Hyde in an easy pool and then had a quarter-final against a Fiji team that has not really fired.
However, they will have taken confidence from their World Cup run and Steve Borthwick tried to get on a little rant about it, saying how everyone had written them off. They will be determined to come out and have a go.
If you think about how good Ben Earl and Courtney Lawes were at the weekend, there are good players in that side. Manu Tuilagi makes a difference when carrying straight and hard while Alex Mitchell has impressed at scrum-half with his control and accurate box kicks.
When it comes to selection to face South Africa in the semis, I cannot see them reversing the Owen Farrell/George Ford decision at fly-half because you do not want to be giving away too much in that midfield channel against big, ball-carrying teams like South Africa.
Farrell defends that channel really well and the combination with Tuilagi and Joe Marchant at 10, 12 and 13 is much more solid.
South Africa also use a lot of box kicks and up-and-unders so you need wingers and a full-back who can contest the aerial battle.
For that reason, I would not be surprised to see Freddy Steward replace Marcus Smith.
Meanwhile, I thought South Africa’s half-backs were good in the win over France.
Cobus Reinach was accurate with his kicking while he brings a real sense of urgency around attack with his pace.