Brawn over brains for Coetzee's Boks
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: South Africa's Allister Coetzee has promised the Springboks will relish the "physical battle" when they face an England side coached by his former colleague Eddie Jones at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Springboks have lost five of their last nine Tests, including last month's record 15-57 defeat by world champions New Zealand in Durban.
That prompted calls for Springbok coach Coetzee's resignation, with some critics arguing South Africa had moved too far away from their traditional power game in trying to play a more expansive style of rugby that did not suit their players.
The pressure on Coetzee increased as South Africa, albeit without several first-choice picks, started their tour of Europe with a 31-31 draw against a scratch Barbarians side at Wembley on Saturday, where only two tries in the closing minutes prevented defeat.
England, by contrast, have won all nine of their Tests since Jones, like Coetzee appointed after the World Cup, took charge.
"As Eddie says, you've got to match South Africa's physicality," Coetzee told reporters at South Africa's London hotel.
"It will be a physical battle, I can guarantee you that," added Coetzee, who worked alongside Jones when they were both members of the South Africa backroom staff under then coach Jake White that helped the Springboks win the 2007 World Cup.
"Rugby's about physical dominance," explained Coetzee.
"I feel comfortable with the words 'physical dominance'.
"It's about coming out on top at scrum time and mauling. England maul a lot as well.
"We're looking for more variation at line-out time but the maul has always been a strength of ours.
"In terms of South African rugby, we want to find that balance and not let go of what made us a powerhouse before. We'd like to keep that and build on that."
It's a view that resonates with England scrumhalf Ben Youngs, whose personal Test record against the Springboks is played five, lost five.
"Everyone knows the biggest thing they bring is physicality," said Youngs at England's Bagshot training base south-west of London.
"I think they’ll go back to tradition and try to beat us up to a degree.
"I've never come off the field feeling there has been a massive gap, just that we haven't been able to match them physically."
This season has seen Youngs playing alongside Springbok wing JP Pietersen at Leicester, not that he has derived much insight into South Africa's play as a result.
"I sit next to JP at training and he hasn't given anything away," said Youngs.
Pietersen too believes club knowledge will count for little at Twickenham.
"I've only been in England for four months," he said while seated alongside Coetzee.
"The way my club plays is completely different to the way England plays. We have more New Zealand flair, but as the coach says it's going to be all about the set piece [on Saturday]."
England have not beaten South Africa since 2006 - a run spanning 11 defeats and a draw.
"I'm sure that with their history of winning [against England] since 2006, they'll be confident of what they're about," said Youngs.
But Coetzee said history counted for little compared to England's recent form under Australian boss Jones.
"We're definitely underdogs in this case. We're playing against the second best team in the world at this point in time," said Coetzee.
"They are on a nine-game winning streak, they went down to Australia and won all three Tests so there's a lot of confidence in the English side."
England will be without their injured first-choice second-row duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis on Saturday but Coetzee said: "It's a strong side, irrespective of the so-called 'lock crisis' they profess to have.
"They have lost two quality locks but then you get Joe Launchbury back. He's a seasoned campaigner.
"There are hardly any weaknesses if you look at the way they’re going to play."