Preview: England v South Africa
Preview: England v South AfricaSHARE
Last weekend England played No.3 in the world and lost. This week they play No.2 and next week No.1.
In a sense this is the most important of the three as the IRB's draw for the 2015 World Cup draws nigh.
England are currently fifth and would dearly like to be fourth and so miss having to play any of the other three sides ranked in the top four until the semifinals. It is a big boon to be ranked in the top four and to get there England need victory this week and a miracle the week after.
The Springboks have won both of their matches this November – against Ireland and Scotland. They have done so playing poorly in one half of each match. That is frightening – that a team playing poorly keeps on winning.
Heyneke Meyer has been conservative on this tour – not many changes and no silly use of the bench. The team that started against Scotland will start against England.
The fear is fatigue. This will be their 12th Test this year. In addition they would have played 16, 17 or 18 Super rugby matches, depending on how far they got. So the year went Super Rugby, June Tests, Super rugby, Rugby Championship, followed by one, two or three Currie Cup matches depending on how far they got.
That is a lot of demanding, top-level rugby.
Apart from fatigue there is the special feeling that the last game of a tour creates – part of the mind on home, part of the mind on a rest in the sun, part of the mind on Christmas with the family after tasting all the fun of Oxford Street.
England will have to cope with big men running at them, for that is the South African way.
England would expect to have more effective runners at the back and England take tap kicks and quick throw-ins to up the tempo of the game. The Springboks do neither. They like the sedate, structured game. England will want to play quickly and with surprise.
The Springboks say they will run the ball. England have the backs who can sparkle. If the Springboks do not run and England do not sparkle, it will be a drab match on a drab day.
Players to Watch:
For England: Elusive men like Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi and Mike Brown and their lively scrumhalf Ben Youngs are well worth watching.
For South Africa: If Juan de Jongh could get a pass or two and a chance to set his feet flashing he is a player to watch. In the pack there are calm, effective, energetic François Louw, giant Eben Etzebeth and Adriaan Strauss who will catch the eye.
Head to Head: Manu Tuilagi of the powerful force against Juan de Jongh with electric skills; big Ben Morgan against big Duane Vermeulen; the contest between the tough 21-year-olds, Joe Launchbury against Eben Etzebeth. There will be unit conflicts as well – the scrums, where England were found wanting against Australia, the line-outs and the tackles.
2012: South Africa and England drew 14-14, Port 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
2007: South Africa won 58-10, Bloemfontein
2006: South Africa won 25-14, London
Prediction: Recent history and the overall history going back to 1907 suggests that the Springboks should win. Current form, with England beaten by the wobbly Wallabies suggests that South Africa will win a drab match by a few points – unless they can produce an 80-minute game. We believe that the Springboks will win by seven points or more.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 François Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Date: Saturday, 24 November 2012
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 16.30 SA time)
Expected weather: There is a 40 percent chance of rain with a high of 13°C, dropping to 4°C. It's been a bleak week.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
By Paul Dobson