Rebekah Valero-Lee faf de klerk
As England prepare to take on South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan – two Sale Sharks players will go head to head in the fight to become world champions.
England flanker, Tom Curry, and South African scrum half, Faf de Klerk, have both delivered stand out performances during the tournament, with many questioning if the ‘mini Hercules’ de Klerk can be stopped by a relentless England side who dominated the All Blacks.
Ahead of a game that will no doubt bring back demons for Sale's commercial director, Mark Cueto (remember his disallowed try against the Springboks in the 2007 world cup final), we analyse Curry and De Klerk, get to grips with their pre-tournament mindsets and look at how the respective teams weigh up against each other ahead of Saturday’s nail biting final.
- Age: 21
- Position: Blindside Flanker
- Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
- Weight: 106 kg
- Top fact: Tom became the youngest player to start an international for England in 90 years in Argentina on the 2017 summer tour. Tom’s identical twin brother, fellow Sale player, Ben Curry, will be flying out to support his brother in Japan this weekend.
Described by Eddie Jones as one of England’s ‘Kamikaze Kids’, Tom Curry has taken the rugby world by storm since making his professional debut in 2016 and his impressive form has seen him rapidly become an integral asset for club and country.
At 21 years old, Curry is England’s youngest player at this World Cup and what’s more impressive is the fact that the flanker has been given the task of learning a new position, playing at six whilst the whole world watches.
Tom recently spoke to the Independent’s Jack de Menzes about the transition to the role:
“The toughest thing is probably the edge defence. Naturally you want to make a tackle and then get up and make another tackle but you need to try to work the big lads inside you and try and keep them all safe, and then try to get yourself into those positions out wide. That’s difficult sometimes. At the end of the day I want to stay true to myself and adapt to what the team needs”
- Age: 28
- Position: Scrum-half
- Height: 5 ft 7 in
- Weight: 80 kg
- Top stat: Faf, full name Francois, nickname is ‘mini Hercules’. At just 5 ft 7 he is one of the smallest players on the field but his confrontational attitude and fighting spirit has earnt him a reputation as a giant slayer.
After a difficult start with a loss to favourites - New Zealand, South Africa won their remaining games in Pool B with empathic victories over Italy, Canada, Japan and Wales to secure progress to the World Cup Finals. Faf de Klerk’s energetic and non-stop style of play has seen him become a fan favourite for the Springboks since his first cap in 2016 and the 28-year-old will be looking to showcase his finest form in the final against England.
Faf gave us an insight into what the pressure to perform in a World Cup is like:
“I think it’s good that we were look upon as an underdog in the run up to the World Cup and that’s good because it takes the pressure off. I think we’re always in with a shout every time, the Springboks always have a chance to win it.”
England vs. South Africa – what you need to know
The Springboks have the edge over the Red Rose with 25 wins to England's 15, and two drawn matches.
Most memorably, South Africa secured a 15-6 victory over England in the 2007 final to win the tournament for the second time.
This game is particularly significant for another Sale Sharks and England legend, Mark Cueto, who still lives with the ghosts of his disallowed try against the Springboks which cost England the 2007 World Cup. The former Sale player, who is now commercial director at the club, was a bootlace away from becoming England’s hero in the 2007 World Cup final against South Africa in Paris, where he was denied what he still believes was a match-winning try.
But England have had the better of things recently... In the last five meetings between the two sides, Eddie Jones' men have emerged victorious three times to South Africa's two.