South Africa’s victory over New Zealand in the World Cup final was forged in their national psyche, according to some of the stars of their successful title defence.

Hosts France, England and the All Blacks each fell by a single point to a Springboks side who do not know when they are beaten, establishing them as rugby’s ultimate knockout specialists.

New Zealand overcame the red card shown to their captain Sam Cane for a dangerous tackle to take an enthralling final to the wire and even had opportunities to snatch South Africa’s crown.

But the repeat champions – now the most successful nation in men’s World Cup history with four titles – defended magnificently to ensure they they will return home on Tuesday as heroes.

Prop Ox Nche, the destroyer of England’s scrum in the semi-final, said: “It shows our resilience. In South Africa that’s what we are made of.

“When you think we are down that’s when we come out and shock you and show you that we can achieve anything.

“I don’t know how to describe this feeling – it is a feeling that is out of this world. If we stay united we can achieve anything. That’s what it means to me.”

Victory was made possible by four first-half Handre Pollard penalties that saw the fly-half – who was only an injury call up to the squad in mid-September – finish the World Cup with a 100 per cent kicking record.


“This team has a never-say-die attitude. The second half was more containment and limiting the damage. Even though they scored, we limited them to five points,” Pollard said.

It can now be argued that a South Africa team that has amassed back-to-back world titles and defeated the Lions in 2021 is the greatest of all time and there is no question they lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy the hard way.

Full-back Damian Willemse is delighted to have triumphed on behalf of a nation that is besieged by problems.

“We do it for the people of South Africa. We do it for each other. We do it for our families. People don’t really have the money but they have made their way here to support us,” Willemse said.

“I’m really proud of everyone for putting their bodies on the line and sacrificing themselves.

“That is what we have to do to win a World Cup. It is really special to be part of it. I am just really proud to be South African.

“We knew it was going to take a massive effort to beat the All Blacks. They are a great team who have been in great form these past few weeks.

“The red card did change the game from a technical point of view, but we knew the All Blacks weren’t going to die.”

New Zealand captain Sam Cane admitted he was feeling “so much hurt” after he was sent off in Saturday’s 12-11 World Cup final defeat by South Africa.

Cane’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Jesse Kriel in the 28th minute of a dramatic clash at the Stade de France was upgraded to red by the bunker review system.

It was the first time a player had been dismissed in a men’s World Cup final and although the All Blacks showed heart to overcome the setback and score through Beauden Barrett, they could not pierce South Africa’s defence again.

“So much hurt right now. It’s actually hard to find the words to explain it,” Cane said.

“It’s hard because you are feeling so much hurt, but at the same time you are so proud of the group in how they fought back.

“We really gave ourselves a good shot of winning that game. I think it speaks volumes of the group as a whole.”

A despondent Cane refused to blame the officials led by referee Wayne Barnes or the bunker review system for a decision that left New Zealand swimming against the tide.

“At the time, I wasn’t even aware (of the head contact). It sort of caught me off guard because of the fact he stepped back,” Cane said.

“But we’ve been at this tournament for two months now and anything around the head has ramifications.

“I’m not here to discuss whether it was right or wrong. It can’t be changed. It’s something unfortunately I am going to have to live with forever.”

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster stood by his skipper and insisted the high tackle was not a red card offence, adding that Siya Kolisi’s challenge on Ardie Savea in the second half that was a yellow only was equally severe.

“We’ve all seen the way Sam has contributed to the game, to our team behind the scenes, and it’s fantastic,” Foster said.

“He’s worthy of being captain of the All Blacks, which is an honour and a privilege, and he has carried that magnificently. I’m incredibly proud of him and proud to coach him.

“There was an intent to wrap and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of force in the contact.

“The hit on Ardie had a lot of force going into that contact and had a direct contact on the head. The game has got a few issues it has got to sort out. That’s not sour grapes.

“You’ve got two different situations with different variables and one is a red card, one is a yellow card. That’s the game.

“We got the same behaviour from that TMO (Tom Foley) that we got during the Irish series last year. The same TMO. We expected what we got.”

South Africa defended their crown through four Handre Pollard penalties, all of them coming in the first half, to win a third successive knock-out game by a single point.

It lifts them above New Zealand as the most successful side in World Cup history with four titles.

“There aren’t a lot of things going right in our country and we have the privilege to be able to do what we love and inspire people in life, not just sports people,” Kolisi said.

“Where I come from, I couldn’t dream I could be here today. We come from different walks of life. I had my own goals and ambitions.

“I want to look after my family, I want to give back to my community. You need to come and see South Africa to understand.

“When we come together nothing can stop us, not just in sport but also in life.”

New Zealand captain Sam Cane became the first player to be sent off in a World Cup final as South Africa retained their title with a nail-biting 12-11 victory at Stade de France.

Cane was shown a red card for in the 28th minute for a dangerous tackle on Jesse Kriel but the All Blacks responded with character and resilience to take the champions to the wire on a wet Paris night.

Beauden Barrett ran in the first try ever scored against South Africa in a World Cup final as the final quarter approached but, with Richie Mo’unga unable to add the conversion, New Zealand still trailed.

Jordie Barrett then missed a tricky long-range penalty that would have toppled the Springboks and despite furious late attempts to strike from long range they were unable to break through the green wall.

Ben Youngs will sign off his England career in Friday’s World Cup bronze final content that the time is right to step out of the Test arena.

The nation’s most capped men’s player with 126 appearances, a veteran of four World Cups, makes his first start of the tournament when England clash with Argentina at the Stade de France.

It brings down the curtain on an outstanding 13-year Test odyssey, the majority of which he has spent as first-choice scrum-half before his slide down the pecking order at France 2023.

“There’s not a part of me that thinks ‘what if’ – I’m absolutely making the right call,” said the Leicester and Lions half-back, who picked out the 2016 series whitewash of Australia as his career highlight.

“It just feels right. I feel so content. The fact I had this in my head for a long time and then I didn’t hesitate about it makes me realise that it’s absolutely the right decision.

“I’ve also got a young family and all the bits that come with that. So it’s just the right time. I will go back and play my club rugby and I look forward to doing that.

“I’ve got great memories, it’s been a great journey. The 13 years goes like that (clicks fingers). It will be nice to finish on a high on Friday.

“I will miss the adrenalin of running out in front of a full stadium. I’ll actually miss the pressure of big games, when everything is on the line. I’ll miss the build-up to the week, when it’s a big week with your team-mates.

“And I’ll also miss that camaraderie – the common goal of trying to achieve something special within an elite group.

“But, equally, I’ll look back very fondly and very content. One door closes and another one opens.”

When Youngs told Steve Borthwick that it was time to call it a day, he was thanked by the head coach.

In a neat piece of symmetry, Borthwick was also his captain when the 34-year-old made his debut as a replacement for injured wing Ugo Monye against Scotland in 2010.

“I remember (assistant coach) Mike Ford running up and the touchline telling me what to do. It was 15-15. Steve was my captain. It was at Murrayfield,” Youngs said.

“Ugo went off on a stretcher, he was absolutely fine and he played the next week. He was like that character from Jerry Maguire! The game has changed a lot.

“When I got that first one I didn’t think I would be sitting here 13 years later and having the opportunity to end it my way. It’s been a great ride and I’m proud of it.”

Jos Buttler accepted his future as England captain was out of his hands after another painful defeat sent his side tumbling towards the World Cup exit door.

England knew nothing less than victory over Sri Lanka would be enough to keep alive their fading hopes of reaching the semi-finals and they responded with arguably their worst performance yet in a campaign littered with low points.

After choosing to bat first, they were skittled for a meagre 156 in 33.2 overs, then watched as their opponents cantered home by eight wickets in Bangalore with almost half of the innings unused.

The thrashing, which followed heavy losses to New Zealand, Afghanistan and South Africa, left the reigning champions ninth in the standings with an eye-watering net run-rate.

With four games to go – including table-topping India and bitter rivals Australia – they are being kept off bottom spot by the only associate nation at the competition, the Netherlands.

Remarkably, England are not yet mathematically out with four games to play, but the route is fanciful in the extreme and Buttler acknowledged the game was up.

“It certainly looks that way and that’s incredibly disappointing. It would need a few miracles,” he said, glassy-eyed after another draining day.

“You get on the plane with high hopes and a lot of confidence and belief that we can challenge for the title, so to be sat here now with the three weeks we’ve had is a shock. It’s a shock to everyone.

“I’ll walk back in the dressing room after this, look at the players sat there and think ‘how have we found ourselves in this position with the talent and the skill that’s in the room’?

“But it is the position we’re in, it’s the reality of what’s happened over the last three weeks and that’s a huge low point.”

Pressed on his own status in charge of the side Buttler indicated a desire to continue but a realisation that the verdict may not be his to make.

In reality, England do not have an obvious successor lined up and Buttler is relatively new in the role, having inherited the mantle following Eoin Morgan’s retirement last summer.

He also has a T20 World Cup win in the bank and there has been no indication that managing director of the men’s cricket, Rob Key, has an itchy trigger finger.

“I think you’re always questioning as captain how you can get the best out of players, how you can get the team moving in the right direction,” Buttler admitted.

“I certainly have a lot of confidence and belief in myself as a leader and captain and first and foremost as a player, but if you’re asking if I should still be captaining the team, that’s a question for the guys above me.

“The tournament’s gone nowhere near the way we wanted it to…that much is obvious. As a leader, you want to lead through your own performance and I’ve not been able to do that.”

Head coach Matthew Mott joined Buttler in writing off the chances of sneaking through to the last four, telling BBC Sport: “Yeah, it’s over now, I think.

“I’m not a mathematician, but with our net run-rate and too many teams who are going to take games off each other, we have to come to terms with that. From now we’re playing for a lot of pride.

“We feel like we’ve let our fans down, our families and supporters and everyone in that dressing room, we haven’t put our best foot forward and in professional sport, that’s what you’re judged on.”

Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard have been named in South Africa’s starting line-up for Sunday’s World Cup final against New Zealand in Paris.

The return of half-backs De Klerk and Pollard are Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber’s only two changes from the side which started in last week’s 16-15 semi-final win against England.

Former Sale scrum-half De Klerk, 32, now playing in Japan with Yokohama Canon Eagles, and Leicester fly-half Pollard, 29, are among 10 starting players who began the 2019 final against England.

Nienaber told South Africa Rugby’s official website: “This is an experienced team with several players who played in the last Rugby World Cup final and who know exactly what to expect at Stade de France on Saturday and what it will take to retain the title.

“The players who will be playing in their first World Cup final have also proven their worth as warriors throughout this campaign and they are all ready for this massive occasion.

“We know we are in for a colossal battle. Every point and inch will count in this match and we know it will take another top-class effort to come out on top on Saturday.”

De Klerk and Pollard will become the most experienced half-backs in Springbok history, partnering each other for the 25th time and surpassing Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball.

Nienaber has included 15 players in his squad who appeared in the Springboks’ record 35-7 win against New Zealand at Twickenham in August.

Second row Franco Mostert and prop Steven Kitshoff are the only two forwards named in the starting line-up who did not start in the 2019 final, with both featuring off the bench.

South Africa have begun investigating an alleged racist slur directed at England flanker Tom Curry by their hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi.

England have until Monday morning to lodge a complaint with the citing officer after Curry claimed he had been the victim of a discriminatory remark in Saturday’s 16-15 World Cup semi-final defeat by the Springboks.

Curry drew the incident to the attention of referee Ben O’Keeffe in the second quarter of the match at the Stade de France.

Although the alleged slur is not audible on the ref mic, Curry’s subsequent conversation with O’Keeffe is.

“Sir, if their hooker calls me a white c*** what do I do?” the Sale flanker said.

O’Keeffe replied: “Nothing, please. I’ll be on it.”

South Africa on Sunday responded by confirming they are looking into the incident.

“We are aware of the allegation, which we take very seriously, and are reviewing the available evidence. We will engage with Bongi if anything is found to substantiate the claim,” an SA Rugby statement read.

When asked after the match if Mbonambi had said something he should not have done, Curry replied “yeah”, although he declined to reveal the content of the remark.

Mbonambi, who took over as captain once Siya Kolisi had been replaced, refused to shake Curry’s hand at the end of a dramatic clash in Paris that was won by Handre Pollard’s penalty after 78 minutes.

World Rugby confirmed there is a 36-hour window from when the game ends for England to lodge a complaint to the citing officer, giving them until 10am BST on Monday to act.

The sport’s global governing body can also choose to pursue the matter, with any case likely to be brought under the ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ banner.

Also, if the citing officer finds any evidence of the alleged racist remark, disciplinary proceedings can be triggered against Mbonambi, with an offence such as this likely to contravene law 9.12 – a player must not verbally abuse anyone.

England led for all but five minutes of the semi-final and were nine points ahead until RG Snyman went over in the 70th minute at a time when the Springboks’ scrum was taking control through the introduction of the ‘Bomb Squad’.

Jonny May said England’s heroic effort against the world champions was fuelled by the belief that they had been dismissed as a serious threat by South Africa.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t think necessarily the South Africans respect us,” May said.

“Some of the things their coach has openly said about us in their documentaries and stuff probably just adds fuel to the fire.

“We touched on their documentary and we’ve got staff who were with them and they gave us insight of how they feel about us.”

Steve Borthwick vowed to use England’s heartbreaking World Cup semi-final exit at the hands of South Africa to sow a seed for future success.

Borthwick’s unfancied side led by nine points in the final quarter and were on the cusp of a famous win until Handre Pollard’s late penalty condemned them to an agonising 16-15 defeat.

Many of England’s players collapsed to their knees following a colossal, but ultimately unsuccessful, effort against the reigning champions on a sodden evening in Paris.

While head coach Borthwick was similarly crestfallen by the dramatic late twist at Stade de France, he was proud of the efforts of his team and upbeat about what lies ahead.

“We came here with a plan to win the game and we fell a little bit short, not far short but a little bit short, so we’re desperately disappointed,” he said.

“I think we all truly believed we could do it, we were going to do it, and we came very close to doing so.

“In adversity, in these tough times, there’s usually some seed of it there that will grow and be something brilliant in the future.

“Right now it’s too early for me to find that seed but we’ll make sure we find it.

“We’ll make sure that we take some of what we find tonight, some of what we’ve gone through tonight, we’ll make sure we grab that and we’ll make sure it makes us stronger in the future.”

Captain Owen Farrell produced an outstanding performance, kicking all of his side’s points, including a superb drop goal.

His efforts looked to be sufficient for victory but RG Snyman barged over for the only try of the match in the 70th minute to set up a grandstand finish.

Man-of-the-match Pollard, who booted the Springboks to victory over England in the 2019 final, nailed the tricky conversion and then landed a monster penalty two minutes from time to inflict more anguish on the opposition.

“The players should be incredibly proud of what they’ve done and continue to do as they represent England rugby,” continued Borthwick.

“I know I’ll have at home a couple of young boys who are going to be bitterly disappointed and I’m sure there are lots of people that are proud but also gutted back in England, I’m sure there are millions of people like that.

“I care about these players, I care about these supporters, and I care about English rugby.

“What I see is a group of guys who are doing as much as they possibly can to set an example, to build a team, to have supporters proud of them.

“They’re led by this man next to me (Farrell), who I think has been and continues to be a phenomenal player and an incredible leader of this team.”

New Zealand await South Africa in next weekend’s final.

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber praised his team’s fighting spirit.

“I pay a lot of credit to England,” he said. “They were outstanding on the night.

“They had a very good tactical plan and they put us under pressure. We will have to improve because it took us some time to get to grips with it.

“But the strength of this team is that even if we’re not playing well we find a way to get the result.

“It took 80 minutes to get a foothold in the game. The team refused to give up and fought until the end.”

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi was convinced fly-half Pollard, who came on for Manie Libbok with only half an hour gone, would land the decisive penalty from just inside England’s half.

“I had no doubt at all,” he said. “He’s done it for us before.

“England are a world-class team and completely different to a year ago. They had an amazing game plan which we took too long to adapt to.

“These things happen but we dug deep to get the victory. Other teams wouldn’t be able to get the win from this. I’m not going to say it was ugly, we did what was needed.”

England collapsed to an agonising 16-15 defeat against South Africa at the Stade de France as they allowed a place in Saturday’s World Cup final against New Zealand to slip from their grasp.

Steve Borthwick’s men led by nine points in the final quarter but their wet-weather masterclass began to fade as the ‘Bomb Squad’ made their presence felt for the Springboks, especially in the scrum.

It was on the back of their set-piece ascendancy and the generalship of replacement fly-half Handre Pollard that the tables turned in a sodden Paris.

RG Snyman barged over for the only try of the match in the 70th minute and Pollard nailed a tricky conversion, setting up heart-stopping finish to a Test that was enthralling throughout.

The world champions were still two points behind but up stepped man-of-the-match Pollard to land the killer blow with two minutes left, nailing a penalty from just inside England’s half.

England’s players sank to their knees at the final whistle, their hearts broken having given their all in a rematch of the 2019 final despite being distant outsiders, and it was an especially cruel moment for Owen Farrell given his outstanding night.

Farrell was at the heart of many of his side’s best moments and although the captain drew the now customary boos when his name was read out on the PA system pre-match, he replied by drawing first blood with a penalty.

Breakdown and line-out success, as well as Ben Earl blasting off the base of the scrum, were further early wins until a promising drive downfield ended with Farrell kicking his second penalty.

Three times in a row England turned over South African line-out drives, winning a penalty on the third of them to relieve the pressure that was building on their line.

Every aspect of an arm wrestle of a contest was being won by England, but they were also their own worst enemies as they gave away three needless penalties, one of them for a moment of petulance from Farrell that allowed Manie Libbok to land three points.

His eyes bulging, Farrell was playing on the edge and had to be escorted away from referee Ben O’Keeffe, but he regained his composure to re-establish the six-point lead.

Libbok became the fall guy for South Africa’s woes when he was replaced in the 32nd minute by Pollard in the hope the 2019 World Cup winner would bring greater control.

Pollard’s first involvement was to boot a penalty and growing tension was evident as errors crept into both sides, but when Farrell found the target for the fourth time, England entered the break with a deserved 12-6 lead.

Rookie Leicester lock George Martin had been at the forefront of red rose resistance through his savage tackling and as the rain continued to fall there was no prospect of the game opening up.

Scrum-half Cobus Reinach and full-back Damian Willemse were the next to be pulled by South Africa, who now had Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux on the field, and then Eben Etzebeth followed them into the dugout.

The changes were a reflection of England’s control and just as the Springboks appeared to be clawing their way into contention, Farrell rifled over a sensational drop-goal.

England’s captain was striking gold with every touch as a wicked crossfield grubber caused Kurt-Lee Arendse to fumble, but South Africa were beginning to harvest penalties at the scrum.

Suddenly the Springboks went up a gear, their pack pouring forwards from a line-out for Snyman to score.

It was now all South Africa, who had discovered a new lease of life, and when the moment for glory came, Pollard stepped up to deliver his monster penalty.

England conceded their highest ever score in ODI cricket as Heinrich Klaasen’s devastating century saw South Africa smash 399 for seven in their crunch World Cup clash in Mumbai.

The defending champions will need to bat brilliantly to avoid a third defeat in four games after watching a powerful Proteas line-up run riot after being put in by Jos Buttler at the Wankhede Stadium.

A revamped England side looked devoid of ideas in stifling humidity as their opponents brutalised them in the closing stages, taking 143 from a punishing last 10 overs.

Klaasen was in brutal mood, hammering a 61-ball ton and finishing with 109 in 67, while Marco Jansen made an unbeaten 75 from 42.

In all there were 13 sixes and 38 fours across the innings, which should have ended with England shipping 400 for the first time in their history only for South Africa to decline a second run off the final ball.

England’s previous worst day in the field came eight years ago at the Oval, where New Zealand hit 398 for five, and their have only ever been five bigger totals on the World Cup stage.

To win, and keep their ailing title defence alive, England will need to produce the third highest chase ever seen in one-day cricket.

England are ready for scheming from South Africa at the Stade de France on Saturday but believe the World Cup will be decided in other areas.

Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus is accomplished at what Warren Gatland describes as “dark arts”, such as using mind games to give his side an edge, especially through the use of social media to “control the agenda”.

The most recent example is the suggestion that the Springboks used HIAs in their quarter-final victory over France last Sunday to give forwards Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bongi Mbonambi a rest – a claim denied by Erasmus.

Attack coach Richard Wigglesworth insists England know they will be targeted in the last-four showdown in Paris and even believes that their media output is being monitored closely.

“I’m sure that, with the smarts of their coaching team, they will try to throw stuff at us, no doubt. Will that be the winning and losing of this game? Probably not,” Wigglesworth said.

“It will probably be the big bits of the game that decides that and then they’ll give those little nuances a chance.

“I wouldn’t like to guess what they are going to try and do because I know they will watch and hear everything we say. I wouldn’t like to try and give anyone a head start.”

South Africa are aiming to win their fourth World Cup and enter the second semi-final as overwhelming favourites, while few people are giving England a chance.

“If there is pressure on South Africa, then they’ve shown they can deal with it,” Wigglesworth said.

“They dealt with it at the last World Cup and dealt with it in numerous games. It’s not something that we’ve been clinging on to.

“I’m super-impressed with them as an outfit. They’ve evolved a little bit but without changing their DNA, which we know is incredibly physical with a good kicking game on the back of a rush defence.

“That’s stuff that we’re going to have to deal with, but we also need to make sure that we’re giving them some food for thought.”

Kevin Sinfield has demanded England’s players empty the tanks in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa to ensure they are not left with lifelong regrets.

For eight of the starting XV it is the chance to avenge their defeat to the Springboks in the 2019 final when the expectations generated by a thumping victory over New Zealand a round earlier were ground into the Yokohama Stadium turf.

Steve Borthwick’s England were given little hope of challenging for South Africa’s crown due a dismal series of warm-up fixtures which extended their losing run to five defeats in six Tests, yet they are the only unbeaten side left in the tournament.

Defence coach Sinfield sees the benefit of continuing to confront adversity head on at the Stade de France.

“I am certainly not overwhelmed. I understand the challenge in front of us,” the English rugby league great said.

“But I don’t mind being backed into a corner, don’t mind being written off, don’t mind being slammed, don’t mind being in the thick of a pretty tough circumstance.

“I just think that we’re in a World Cup semi-final, there is a lot of good in us, there are a lot of things to be excited about.

“Coming up against South Africa will let us know where we’re at. But for our players, they are so excited to be out there.

“Rewind eight weeks to the end of August and it was pretty grim for us, but we want them to absolutely rip into it on Saturday night.

“We want them to give everything they’ve got, otherwise you end up with a load of regrets for the rest of your life.

“We are really looking forward to this – we are coming up against the best team in the world at the weekend.”

England have a mix of ages in their squad ranging from 22-year-old George Martin to 36-year-old Dan Cole and Sinfield believes that the final message to the squad before they take the field needs to be delivered with more subtlety in the modern era.

“It’s probably more subtle than Churchillian speeches and understanding that leadership has changed and this generation is different,” Sinfield said.

“Gone is the big Churchillian leader. They do exist but they’re quite rare.”

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is adept at what Warren Gatland describes as “dark arts”, such as using mind games to give his side an edge.

The most recent example is the suggestion that the Springboks used HIAs in their quarter-final victory over France to give forwards Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bongi Mbonambi a rest – a claim denied by Erasmus.

Attack coach Richard Wigglesworth insists England are ready for any scheming but believe the match will be decided in other areas.

“I’m sure that, with the smarts of their coaching team, they will try to throw stuff at us, no doubt. Will that be the winning and losing of this game? Probably not,” Wigglesworth said.

“It will probably be the big bits of the game that decides that and then they’ll give those little nuances a chance.

“I wouldn’t like to guess what they are going to try and do because I know they will watch and hear everything we say. I wouldn’t like to try and give anyone a head start.”

South Africa have condemned the death threat received by scrum-half Cobus Reinach ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against England.

Montpellier player Reinach was targeted on social media in the wake of his country’s 29-28 quarter-final victory over hosts France.

Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus highlighted the abuse directed at the 33-year-old by posting a screen grab on his X account.

South Africa assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, who said Reinach is in a “good space”, praised the security levels at the tournament and believes the matter is being handled by the French authorities.

“We’re well aware of the situation with Cobus and his family,” Stick said on the eve of facing England in Paris.

“We don’t have a place for hooligans in our game. The players do their job to make sure they represent their country and we are here to represent South Africa.

“If somebody has got a problem with that, I think the French authorities will have to deal with that.

“But from our side, we’ll make sure we protect each other: our players, management, everyone involved.

“We don’t have a place for that in the game. You win some, lose some as part of the game.

“Whoever sent that message to the player, I’m really disappointed about that.

“We’ll keep doing everything in our powers to make sure we make our people proud at home.

“Regarding the situation, I think it’s well handled now by the French authorities.”

Reinach, who played for Northampton between 2017 and 2020, will start against Steve Borthwick’s side at the Stade de France as part of an unchanged South Africa line-up.

The message sent to him, translated from French, read: “Dirty son of a b****. I hope that when you return to Montpellier you get murdered by French people on the ground. Gang of thieves. Easy to win a title by cheating.”

Many France supporters criticised the performance of the match officials following their elimination at the hands of the Springboks, while Les Bleus captain Antoint Dupont suggested referee Ben O’Keeffe was not “up to the level of the game”.

Asked how Reinach is feeling, Stick replied: “He’s proper. I’ve seen him every day.

“He’s in a good space, he’s got his family around him.

“In our camp, we must also give credit to the French security around our hotels. With all the teams, the security is just another level.

“I don’t think at the moment there is something to worry about because we know for sure we are well protected in our camps.”

Tom Curry knows what it takes to defeat South Africa as he braced England for the fight of their lives in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final at the Stade de France.

Curry was part of the side that was crushed by the Springboks in the 2019 final, but he also played in England’s two victories against their rivals in 2018 and 2021 as well winning with the British and Irish Lions that same year.

Having experienced highs and lows against the reigning champions, Curry has built up an insight into the type of performance needed to topple the world champions.

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience both sides. I understand what it takes and it’s going to be a lot so can’t wait to go after it this weekend,” the all-action openside said.

“It’s always a great game when you play against them. We know the Springboks and they’ve developed their game. They’ve matured and we have as well.

“This is a clash between two very exciting teams and we can’t wait to go. It’s a semi-final. If that’s not enough to get you up for a game then I don’t know what will.

“For me there’s no place you’d rather be than in a semi-final against South Africa.”

Wing Elliot Daly is another survivor from England’s harrowing defeat in Yokohama four years ago and one of a small group of players whose international careers were revived by Steve Borthwick’s appointment in December.

The versatile Saracens back, who had fallen out of favour with Borthwick’s predecessor Eddie Jones, believes that experience has no relevance to Saturday’s rematch.

“It was disappointing four years ago but the feel around this team is that it’s a very different team to then,” Daly said.

“I had a bit of time out from the squad and then when I came back in, there was a different feeling within this group. We’re going to try and harness that.”

Daly will form a back three with Jonny May and Freddie Steward, who has been reinstated in the number 15 jersey after losing it to Marcus Smith for the quarter-final victory over Fiji.

Even if Smith had not been ruled out by concussion, however, it is unlikely Steward would have been overlooked given he has the skills needed to deal with South Africa’s precision kicking game.

“Fred’s been brilliant since he started playing for England. The confidence he’s shown since the start of the World Cup campaign has been brilliant,” Daly said.

“He’s a rock at the back under the high ball and he’s really starting to grasp the attack game now.

“He’s making really good decisions on the edge, which are usually putting me in space, which is nice. He’s a quality player and we back him all the way.

“The relationship between us in the back three now is brilliant – we can talk to one another on the field and make sure we’re in the right positions to try to take advantage of any space back there.”

England were grappling with a selection quandary on the eve of their crucial World Cup clash against South Africa, with captain Jos Buttler weighing up Chris Woakes’ role as leader of the attack.

Woakes’ new-ball skills have been a reliable centrepiece of the side ever since their white-ball reinvention eight years ago, but he has suffered an uncharacteristic wobble since arriving in India.

Three loose starts from the usually dependable seamer have undermined England’s efforts so far and an economy rate of 7.5 an over, coupled with two wickets at 67.50 each, tells a concerning story.

But with victory a must in Mumbai on Saturday following defeats to New Zealand and Afghanistan, taking the most established pace bowler out of the firing line would still represent a significant call.

Buttler acknowledged Woakes’ long-term record and recent dip in form represented a conflicted picture and is set to thrash the matter out with head coach Matthew Mott.

“He’s been a fantastic performer for an incredibly long time for England in all the formats and especially in one-day cricket,” he said.

“But we’re all honest guys, right? We’re all honest professionals who hold each other to high standards and individually expect a lot of ourselves. He knows he’s not performing quite how he would like to at the minute, and that’s frustrating, but there’s no judgement from our side.

“We always back all our players that are in our team – we picked them for a number of reasons and one because they’re high-class players and he’s certainly one of those.”

David Willey stands by as a specialist powerplay bowler, eager to showcase his left-arm swing on the World Cup stage after missing out on the 2019 tournament by a whisker, while Surrey’s Gus Atkinson has yet to feature.

Whatever happens, Ben Stokes is locked in to make his eagerly-anticipated return after missing all three games with a hip injury. And, with his stand-in Harry Brook providing the only bright spot of a botched chase against Afghanistan, a rebalancing of the XI could be under consideration. Sam Curran, light on runs and expensive with the ball, has left himself particularly vulnerable.

“I think I’ve got so many options within the squad, selection is always tough,” Buttler said.

“You’re working out the right balance, which is always venue dependent as well, and we’ve had a good chance to see the wicket here and gather a bit more information.

“Obviously Ben has trained really well and it’s great to see him back. He obviously brings a lot on the field and with his presence and leadership skills as well, so he’s someone who is always good to turn to.”

Both teams are looking to bounce back from stinging upsets last time out, with the Proteas’ implosion against the Netherlands somehow leapfrogging England’s reverse against Afghanistan in the pantheon of World Cup shocks within 24 hours.

The last time the two sides faced off at this storied venue, in the 2016 T20 World Cup, it was a classic encounter that saw England hunt down 230 – still their record chase in the format.

There are six survivors from that side still on parade seven years later, including Buttler. Now he is hoping England can relocate similar attacking instincts once again.

“There are great memories of that night, albeit a long time ago. It was one of my favourite games,” he recalled.

“I think this is one of the great grounds in India. I love playing cricket here. I think it’s a fantastic cricket wicket and, absolutely, it should suit us.

“We want to find ways to make a play, to put the opposition under pressure in lots of different ways. That doesn’t always mean hitting fours and sixes, it means can we push back when the opposition is on top or can we really take the initiative in different ways. That’s what we want to live by as a team.”

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