After their performance against the All Blacks in the semi-final, many people felt that England's name was as good as etched on the Webb Ellis Trophy. South Africa would provide a stern test, but the prevailing wisdom was the Eddie Jones' side would match their physicality while outplaying them tactically.
Things turned out very differently.
This was South Africa's game right from the first whistle, where they would win a first kickable penalty inside the first couple of minutes. While that one would not split the posts, it was very much a sign of things to come.
Handre Pollard kept the scoreboard ticking over throughout, with Owen Farrell unable to get England back on level terms. By the time South Africa scored their first try of the game with 15 minutes to go, they were already on their way to a third World Cup triumph.
All of this leaves England sitting in familiar place. After the shambles that was the 2015 tournament, they now have once again experienced the taste of a final loss to The Springboks.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 2, 2019
Robert Kitson of The Guardian believed that many members of the English public overlooked the threat posed by South Africa in this game.
"Those predicting a comfortable English win were guilty of overlooking South Africa’s proud World Cup heritage.
"They had never previously fallen at the final hurdle or even conceded a try in either of their two previous finals, though neither triumph involved them registering a try themselves."
Mike Cleary of The Telegraph was altogether more dramatic in his summary of England's failings.
Oh woe. Oh calamity. The dream is over...
England, my England, where had you gone? Self-assured one week, woe-begotten the next, unsure, uncertain, all at sea.
Losing Kyle Sinckler to concussion after three minutes was a shock to England’s system to compound their jittery state after arriving 20 minutes late to the ground. It showed in their play. The scrum was a disaster zone.
Right from the outset, it seemed apparent that England were not as prepared for South Africa's physicality as many assumed they would be.
It was a performance of incredible brute strength from Rassie Erasmus' side, something Owen Slot of The Times said England should not have been caught off guard by, even if they were more expansive than the semi-final win over Wales.
"We know what they do. England knew what was coming and they could not cope. England could not impose their own game because South Africa did not give them the chance.
"Of course, we cannot know how this game might have been different had Kyle Sinckler stayed on the pitch. Maybe it would have been no different at all...
"Come the game, the reality became clear very quickly. South Africa played more rugby in the first few minutes than they had done in an entire game against Wales."
Jack de Menezes of the Independent was hugely impressed with South Africa's attack, saying Eddie Jones was caught cold by their tactics:
After so much talk of one-dimensional rugby, it was apt that their tries came from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, the two talented wings, who finally had the shackles removed as Rassie Erasmus deployed a game plan that completely caught England off-guard...
That is what made South Africa’s performance so special. When the pressure mounted to its most, they delivered the style of rugby they were accused of not possessing.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 2, 2019
Warren Gatland said earlier this week that teams who pull off big wins in semi-finals can often struggle in deciders, something that came to pass in this game.
While England would have taken many positives from the win over New Zealand, could it have brought an unfounded arrogance into the group? Neil Squires of The Express believes so:
Did England get ahead of themselves after the humbling of the All Blacks? Well certainly some people did with one high street store hurriedly removing 'England world champions 2019 T-shirts' from their online offerings.
The players will insist until their dying day that they did not but they played like a team who just expected to win.
Turn up at the same ground at the same time and they would play the same wouldn't they? Well, they didn't. Not by a long chalk.
Ultimately, the 20-point margin of victory did not flatter South Africa. This was a demolition, even more so than the one England handed out last week.
According to Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail, it was a complete mismatch.
"England were not simply beaten but blown away; vanquished as totally as the All Blacks on the same turf last week. This wasn’t just about the power of the scrum, although that was huge; this wasn’t just about defence, although that was immense, too.
"England were outplayed at the back, at the front, and all points in between. There was greater invention in the Springboks play, greater imagination. After all the talk of brutality and arm wrestling, South Africa were nimbler and sharper ball in hand, too."