Jacques Nienaber insists Springboks won't be taking 'improving' England lightly

Jacques Nienaber insists Springboks won't be taking 'improving' England lightly

The Springboks insist they do not subscribe to the wide-held belief that England are serious underdogs for Saturday's Rugby World Cup semi-final.

One of the two teams is set to reach their second straight Rugby World Cup final, and the Boks are taking nothing for granted despite a number of pundits - English ones among them - making Jacques Nienaber's team hot favourites.

"England went into the previous Rugby World Cup semi-final as the underdog against New Zealand and we have to stay in the moment and stay in the reality," said Nienaber.

"The reality is that we're facing England - and a good England side - and we don't look at history [of results or form]. I don't know where we were ranked in 2019 [before going on to win it] but any team can beat any team on the day in this game. If we lose this game, we are out so everything is focused on this match."

Despite a shaky start in 2023 under Steve Borthwick, who had been appointed at the end of 2022, Nienaber identified the steady improvement in the semi-finalists.

"They're a completely different coaching team to the last time we played against them, and Steve has embedded a game plan or game model that was different to the previous one under Eddie [Jones, who was fired after England lost to the Boks at Twickenham in November]," said Nienaber.

"I think like everything it takes some time to get used to it and get comfortable with it, and I think the more time they spent with it the more comfortable they have got with it.

"From their performances and build-up during this competition you can see they are improving every single game."

Nienaber also identified the playing style that the Boks would face: "I think they are comfortable not playing with the ball. I think they are the team that kick the most in the tournament; they like to strangle you; kick the ball in your half and apply pressure and wait for you to make mistakes.

"From a tactical point of view, we know what's coming and we'll just have to make sure that we deal with that."

Captain Siya Kolisi said that the Springboks paid no attention to the public criticism that England had received and noted that their opponents would have considerable motivation following their 32-12 defeat four years ago.

"A lot of the players were there at the last World Cup, and they will be out to prove something," he said.

"They have improved compared to before the tournament, and you can see the intent and aggression and the work rate and that it's completely different. That's why they are the only unbeaten team left in the competition.

"We are not silly. We know this will be a different match this weekend [to previous meetings] and we know how big it is. Our motivation doesn't come from who the opponent is, it comes from within us and from the support we have from back home.

"They will have their motives and we will have our own and it is always constant, to play for one another to play for the jersey and to play for the people back home."