Nick Pulford predicts more heartbreak for England against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
After beating England in the last World Cup final in Japan four years ago, South Africa will be looking to cause the Red Rose more heartache in their semi-final clash on Saturday.
South Africa are battle-hardened after their thrilling 29-28 win over hosts France in the quarter-finals and return to the Stade de France to try to book their place in another World Cup final.
England +9.5 @ 6/4
Under 39.5 total points @ 7/5
England can make this a cagey affair
England’s improving defence means this encounter with South Africa might well be tighter than predicted in some quarters.
Defence coach Kevin Sinfield has been working hard behind the scenes to improve England’s performance without the ball and it appears to be paying off.
Having conceded 63 points in their first five games, England are bettered in defence only by France (61) and South Africa (62) at this World Cup.
Admittedly head coach Steve Borthwick and his side have had an easier route to the semi-finals than the Springboks but England have looked more organised in defence.
That will be key for Saturday’s showdown and, while South Africa might have too much quality and should go on to win the game, England can fall on the right side of the +9.5 handicap.
Low-scoring game in store
With two solid defences on show, this might well be a low-scoring affair with penalties likely to play a key role.
South Africa have developed a strong kicking game in recent years and will be looking to test the England back three with high balls from box-kicks and from fly-half.
If England can get on top in that aerial battle, it might leave limited options for a South African backline that doesn’t tend to score many tries off set plays with ball in hand.
England’s backline attack has also been limited in recent years and was one of the reasons results did not go their way before the sacking of Borthwick’s predecessor Eddie Jones last year.
Another battle of the kickers looks to be on the cards for this one, with Owen Farrell and possibly Handre Pollard duking out from the kicking tee.
That should result in a lower-scoring game and under 39.5 points is worthy of consideration at 7/5.
Tries at a premium
With both sides eager to give nothing away in the opening stages of this contest, tries might well be at a premium.
It’s unlikely the teams will go for lineouts when penalties are awarded and both will be expected to go for the posts.
In a cagey game, as this is likely to be, there shouldn’t be an abundance of tries and it might well be worth siding with under 4.5 tries.