England need the game of their lives, but stick to plan and they will beat Springboks, says Martin Corry
Martin Corry was part of two World Cup final squads and countless bruising encounters with the Springboks during his long career.
And they are underdogs again for the 2023 tournament’s second semi-final back at the Stade de France, just as they were four years ago when they upset the two-time defending champions New Zealand at this stage, just as they have underwhelming in reaching this stage this year.
Yet they are the only unbeaten team to reach the semi-finals.
"The focus has been on the other side of the draw and those incredible quarter-finals in Paris. The quality of play was at another level,” said Corry, 50.
“But the great thing about rugby and the World Cup is that anything can happen on the day. We will be going as overwhelming underdogs all you need is a few things to go your way and it might be a very different outcome.
“England are unbeaten because they know how to play in these environments.
“You only have to look back to the semi final in 2019. We were a bit further on than we are now but it was a brave pundit that backed England in the that game.
"It wasn’t just we beat the All Blacks, it was the manner in which we did which was incredible.”
If England are to make lightning strike twice and avenge their World Cup final defeat in Yokohama four years ago, their pack led by Courtney Lawes needs to be at the top of its game.
“Can we get a parity up front?” asked Corry. “As a forward, firstly can you match them physically?
"As an England forward you absolutely loved these games because it is a real test mentally as well as physically on the day. They will be stewing in their rooms, desperate for Saturday to come round. For a forward it is the ultimate test.
"You have to go out there against this big pack and you have to stop that forward momentum. It sounds simple. But the Boks are so effective at it.
"It’s hell. Typically there are one or two players in an opposition team who are really physically imposing. But with the Boks there are eight of them.
"If you clear out one in a ruck, you get smashed by somebody else. It is that relentless nature. The way they are using their replacements. You see off one lot and an even better lot come on to raise the intensity again.
"I think it is great for the game. It is great to see as a rugby fan to see how they are looking to disrupt the game.
“But this is the time for every one of the England pack to have the game of their lives. There can’t be any passengers.
"When you start looking at this England side, we do have some really strong characters, like Maro Itoje, and Courtney. We have seen at various times in the tournament each individual player raising their game significantly.
“If everyone does have the game of their lives and plays to their absolute top level, there is a chance for England.”
South Africa are by no means unbeatable. Ireland defeated them in the opening game and France will be rueing the fact they didn’t overcome them in last Sunday’s pulsating quarter-final.
"As France showed, because of the way South Africa plays, England will get opportunities," offered Corry.
"They do make mistakes and it is how quickly and ruthlessly we can capitalise on them.
“Also, no side has really tried to strangle South Africa. If you go out and try and play rugby against them on paper, they are the better side. But if you go out to strangle them, not give them front foot ball, broken field situations, areas where they can physically dominate. Don’t give them that opportunity. England need to play their way. The team has had way too much stick on the way they have played the games so far. They are finding their way in terms of what to do to win Test matches.
“If that means it’s going to be a territory based game and for England to keep on the pressure on constantly, then they can impose themselves and say, ‘We are not going to allow you, South Africa, to play the game you want to. This is the England way’.
“Steve Borthwick is never going to be the big emotional coach we see elsewhere in the world.
"He is understated but I am sure he will be giving the players the game plan and it will be really structured and the players will buy into it, and if we play the best games of our lives, we can beat South Africa.”
Martin Corry was speaking to Genting Casino.