Ahead of England hosting South Africa on Saturday at Twickenham, Land Rover has caught up with two Rugby legends to talk about their memories of the two sides’ historic clashes at the Rugby World Cup.
Former South African captain John Smit and former England flanker Martin Corry, who battled it out in both the Pool stages of Rugby World Cup 2007 and the Final, relive their two encounters in that epic Tournament. The pair also reminisce about the England v South Africa clash in the Quarter Final of Rugby World Cup 1999 and look ahead to the two sides potentially meeting in next year’s Tournament.
Here’s what the pair have to say …
On the physical nature of the clashes between the two sides:
Corry: “We’ve had some really tough battles and I think the way both sides have traditionally played the game makes [the encounters] as physical and uncomfortable as possible.”
Smit: “It’s never elegant!”
On the fixture in the Pool stages of Rugby World Cup 2007:
Corry: “I think it’s the humiliation South Africa gave us … that Pool game in 2007 was the lowest point of my career. You go to the Rugby World Cup with everyone looking at you and you expect to reproduce the form of your life. Instead you end up playing like turkeys and losing 36-nil.
“That was the catalyst for us to say we can’t go back with the overriding memory of this Rugby World Cup being this game.”
On Rugby World Cup 2007 Final
Corry: “The toughest game [of my career] was the Final of the Rugby World Cup 2007. We weren’t a good side, so we said, ‘We’ve got to make this as physical and as uncomfortable as possible for South Africa and in order to do that we had to make it physical and uncomfortable for us. When you play South Africa, they’re always going to stand up and match that, come at you, and I remember just crawling off that pitch.”
On the progress of the sides ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015
Corry: “I really like what Heyneke Meyer is doing with South Africa.”
Smit: “Me too, having a look at what he’s done and seeing the progress in the team, I like it. Equally as much as I like what Stuart Lancaster’s done since he’s come into England. I think [the two coaches] would have similar philosophies on what they’re busy producing for Rugby World Cup 2015 and both teams have shown good progression.”
On which side is better placed for next year:
Smit: “I played with a lot of the players at Saracens and against a lot of the players that are a big part of the English squad and what Lancaster has is good players, a good pack of forwards and even the back-up forwards are pretty good. By Rugby World Cup 2015 I think the English squad will be South Africa’s biggest threat.
“We know what we’ve got with New Zealand and Australia; we play them regularly, we play them in Super Rugby. Whereas England have quietly gone about their business. And to be fair South Africa are the only southern hemisphere nation that England haven’t beaten under Lancaster.”
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