Preview: England v South Africa

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 06:04

CHESS ON STEROIDS: rugby365's Paul Dobson says, given performances this year, the lion of England must be in with a great chance against the limping Springboks.

England last beat South Africa when they managed a late, two-point win in 2006.

Since then the Springboks have won 11 times and there has been a draw. But this year things are looking more favourable for England.

England won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations and then whitewashed Australia in a three-Test series in Australia. They have won 10 Tests in a row.

South Africa have had a wobbly season. They lost matches to New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Ireland. They have won and lost five of their last 10 matches.

The England side has a settled look while the Springboks are chopped and changed, but this time they actually have players playing in positions to which they are accustomed. The inside centre is an inside centre, the outside centre an outside centre and so on.

The only player who looks a bit out of position is Pieter-Steph du Toit, this time a flank and not a lock but he is certainly athletic enough to play on the flank, as Frik du Preez did in days of yore. This will be Du Toit's fourth Test on the flank.

It means that the Springboks are without a "fetcher" but they have Adriaan Strauss and Warren Whitely who can produce the odd turnover. Winning at the tackle is always important.

The battle will wage up front - eight against eight on a cold and rainy afternoon.

England have been accusing the Springboks of being overly physical, perhaps in the hope that they will adopt a more gentlemanly approach.

Coach Eddie Jones has urged England to follow the example of Muhammad Ali's celebrated 'Rumble in the Jungle' bout against George Foreman.

Jones said taking the Springboks on at their own power game was the way to ensure another defeat against a side who, in the Australian's typically vivid phrase, treat Rugby Union as a sport of "chess with steroids".

He added that England would need a boldly different strategy, citing how Ali upset the odds to regain the world heavyweight title from Foreman, widely regarded as one of boxing's most fearsome punchers, in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974.

Ali took the seemingly high-risk approach of beckoning Foreman forward while laying back on the ropes - what became known as the 'rope-a-dope' - before knocking out his exhausted opponent in the eighth round.  

"Against a physically aggressive side, you've got to play smart," Jones said.

"We won't be shying away from the physical side of the game, but when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, if he went toe-to-toe with him he was going to lose, so he had to find other ways of getting around him.

"We don't want to go toe-to-toe with South Africa because that's what they want to do.

"South Africa play the game like it's a physical game of chess - like chess with steroids," added Jones, who was a member of the Springboks' backroom staff along with current head coach Allister Coetzee when they won the 2007 World Cup.

"The challenge for us is to be tactically smart."

He cited Stormers locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit as potential threats.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Etzebeth and du Toit when I was Stormers coach for two weeks - very impressive young boys. Etzebeth is from a very tough family, physically aggressive, has great natural body height for a big guy, good jumping skills and a real desire to win.

"Du Toit has nice jumping skills, a bit more of a cerebral player than Etzebeth."

Bok coach Allister Coetzee has made several changes to the team beaten a record 57-15 by world champions New Zealand in Durban last month, with a back-row injury crisis seeing du Toit moved from lock to flanker.

"He has a phenomenal work rate," said Coetzee. "He runs good lines as a ball carrier as well."

As for talk of South Africa going 'Bok to basics', Coetzee said: "It will be a proper Test match and it will most likely start up front."

Turning to Jones, he added: "The guy does not leave any stone unturned, He's thorough and a competitive man.

"He will never disrespect South Africa, he will never take us lightly irrespective of the Rugby Championship that we have had."

Players to watch:

For England: There is class all over the park, but the selection of Elliot Daly at outside centre will present the Springboks with an opponent they may not have seen too much off. The Owen Farrell (inside centre) and George Ford (flyhalf) combination will also be key in terms of how the English backline operates. For physicality look no further than the Vunipola brothers, Billy  and Mako.

For South Africa: Much has been made of the selection of regular lock Pieter-Steph du Toit at flank, and it is a significant decision by coach Allister Coetzee. However, the decision to name Francois Venter at outside centre gives the Boks an exciting attacking option in the midfield which has been missing throughout the Rugby Championship. With players like Willie le Roux and Ruan Combrinck on his outside, the Boks could just surprise the English defence.

Head to head: You have to look no further than the midfield battle between Elliot Daly (England) and Francois Venter (South Africa). Daly, who has won five caps as a replacement, will make his first Test start, while Venter is on international debut. The other significant backline battle will - as so often is the case - be at flyhalf: George Ford (England) against Patrick Lambie (South Africa). To use a well-worn cliché, no team can win without the ball. That is why there has been so much talk of the set piece battle this week - Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley  and Mako Vunipola (England) against Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa).

Recent results:
2014: South Africa won 31-28, London
2012: South Africa won 16-15, London
2012: England and South Africa drew 14-all, Pt Elizabeth
2012: South Africa won 36-27, Johannesburg
2012: South Africa won 22-17, Durban
2010:: South Africa won 21-11, London
2008: South Africa won 42-6, London
2007: South Africa won 15-6, Paris (World Cup Final)
2007: South Africa won 36-0, Paris (World Cup pool match)
2007: South Africa won 55-22, Pretoria

Prediction: England have home ground, a settled team and are ranked second, while South Africa is fourth. England have every reason to be confident. We predict an England's victory by about 10 points.

Teams:

England:15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Dave Attwood, 20. Nathan Hughes, 21. Danny Care, 22. Ben Te'o, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Francois de Klerk , 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lionel Mapoe.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 16.30 SA Time)
Expected weather: Cloudy, with outbreaks of rain, some heavy. Strong winds at first, decreasing later. High of 10°C and a low of 7°C
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com