Key match-ups - front rows
By Matt Porter
PARIS, 20 October - South Africa captain and hooker John Smit will have a more comfortable ride to the final on Saturday than he did the last time the Springboks contested rugby's showpiece.
It was 1995 and the then teenager and his college mates hitch-hiked to Ellis Park from Pretoria to watch Francois Pienaar's team win in extra time against New Zealand.
This time Smit will be driven with a police escort, knowing a nation's hopes rest on his considerable shoulders and those of fellow front rows CJ van der Linde and Os du Randt.
To give their team the best chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, Smit and co. must tame England's scrum, which has been a dominant feature in their resurgence since losing 36-0 to the Springboks in pool play five weeks ago.
It should be noted England captain Phil Vickery was suspended for that match and the tighthead they call the 'Raging Bull ' was sorely missed.
Vickery was a central figure in England's victory four years ago, wreaking havoc on the Wallabies scrum in the final.
The 120kg, 190cm pack bulwark will be locking horns with Du Randt, the only member of that 1995 world champion side still playing international rugby.
Saturday's final will be the 125kg, 190cm powerhouse's 16th world cup match – a South Africa record.
After making his Test debut in 1994 against Argentina and becoming a key member of the Springboks scrum, a series of injuries in 2000 kept Du Randt out of Test rugby for four years.
Remarkably, this will be the immensely strong scrummager's 41st (of 79) Test since returning to the international arena as a 31-year-old in 2004.
On the other side, Springboks tighthead Van der Linde will be charged with nullifying the destructive force of Andrew Sheridan, arguably the form prop of the tournament.
With a man-of-the-match effort in the quarter-final win against Australia and an impressive display of power scrummaging in the semi-final triumph over France, Sheridan will go into the final brimming with confidence.
At 193cm and 122kg, 'Big Ted' is the largest man of either front row, but only just, shading the 190cm, 122kg Van der Linde only in height.
Able to bench-press 190kg, Van der Linde is considered the strongest member of the South Africa squad and the perfect man to lead the challenge against the England big men.
Eleven of the 27-year-old's first 20 Tests were as a replacement but he has since established himself in the top team and the final will be his 46th international.
In the middle, 'Ronnie' Regan will be looking to disrupt the opposition captain on and off the ball.
The England hooker made his debut against the Springboks way back in November 1995 but he has not always been the first-choice number 2 and did not make the match 22 for England's 2003 world cup win.
The following year he retired from international rugby but continued to impress for Leeds, then Bristol, and the 35-year-old put himself back in the Test arena in 2007, securing his world cup spot with a strong tour of South Africa.
A noted talker, Regan will be constantly in Smit's ear as the scrum packs down, but the Springboks skipper will not be easily distracted in his 74th Test.
At 116kg and 186cm, Smit, a converted prop, is a huge asset in the scrum fulcrum and will look to lead from the front as captain, a position he has held for a South Africa record 47 of his 73 Tests.