Autumn Internationals 2012: England v South Africa Prediction

South Africa visit Twickenham on Saturday in what can truly be described as one of the oldest sporting clichés from an England perspective: “must win” may not even do it justice. Lose this one and all that’s left is the All Blacks, a game that would almost be over before it started after two losses against inferior opposition. After the optimism and confidence in the build-up to the Australia game last weekend, the disappointment of a sub-par performance has been all the more acute. So, in what is quite possibly the most important game of Stuart Lancaster’s tenure so far, can England lift themselves up, dust themselves off, and bounce back with a win against the Bokke?

Reasons to back England

Lancaster has rung the changes. Although the temptation to write them off as a rash reaction to a poor performance is strong, closer scrutiny reveals some clever selections. Marler was dismantled last week and against the mighty Springbok front row the more experienced Corbisiero would have been the right choice even if the Quins-man had been fit. Joe Launchbury will be in for a rough ride but all the signs so far point to him being capable and ready for it. Tom Wood will add more competitiveness at the breakdown, as well as more go-forward with ball in hand, as will James Haskell if required from the bench. Waldrom can count himself a little unlucky to have been dropped but Ben Morgan will offer something a bit different from the base of the scrum, which could be a canny selection in the face of the Springboks’ relatively one-dimensional game plan.

In the backs Ben Youngs gets his chance after Danny Care failed to replicate his Harlequins form on the international stage. Youngs’ partnership with Flood will be intriguing to watch; the scrum-half often makes little sideways darts from the base of breakdowns, and no-one can read these better than Flood, quite often turning them into clean breaks. On the wing Mike Brown is selected out of position, but it so nearly worked with Foden over the summer against the same team, so why not try it again? If it doesn’t work there is always the exciting prospect of Jonathan Joseph to come off the bench. All in all, it is an encouraging selection from Lancaster.

Reasons to back South Africa

Changes are all very well, but the new men are going to have to be significantly more aggressive than those who failed to boss an underwhelming Aussie pack last week. South Africa have the most daunting forwards in world rugby, and they will arrive with the confidence of two wins at their back. Those two wins may not have been the most spectacular performances ever, but they have shown the grit and determination that is typical of the Bokke mindset to get over the line with a squad that is far from complete.

Ruan Pienaar is in fine form, and there is arguably no better a scrum half in world rugby at controlling the game behind a dominant pack. He may not make the breaks that some 9s do, but he will make sure the Springboks play in the right areas of the field. Outside him Pat Lambie is maturing well, and offers significantly more in attack than his predecessor Morne Steyn. Jean De Villiers will be typically abrasive in midfield, and watch out for fleet-footed centre Juan de Jongh outside him, a man who can certainly make Tuilagi pay if he finds himself out position in defence.

What could be seen as a controversial plus for the South Africans is the continued selection of Owen Farrell on the bench. They can be certain that if after 65 minutes they are ahead, there won’t be any game-changing attacking talent stepping into the play-maker’s role for England. The only disappointing part of Lancaster’s selection this week has been the leaving out of Freddie Burns; the safe instead of the bold.


It is a very tough match to call. If England can gain parity in the forwards then they have a great chance, and the first 10 minutes will be particularly vital in setting the tone for the match. Last week everyone expected England to dominate up front, and when that didn’t happen early on the Aussies visibly grew in belief, something that ironically will have given Lancaster hope going into this weekend. However, if the South African pack gets on top straight away, they will control the game and win fairly comfortably. I have a nagging feeling, though, that England will have been stung into action after last weekend, much like the Aussie team that beat them. As a result I am, cautiously, going for England by 2 points.

By Jamie Hosie

19 thoughts on “Autumn Internationals 2012: England v South Africa Prediction

  1. Ah, the optimism begins afresh!

    I am concerned about Tom Youngs. Part of the problem with our scrum last weekend was that he was being too easily forced away from the props. And that was against a hooker who is no great shakes. I am sure that Adrian Strauss will have taken notice of this.

    If it happens again and especially with Corb. short of match practice, the scrum could be in for a difficult time.

    However, if in the first ten mins, we see players like Strauss, Alberts and Etzebeth being knocked back in the tackle then I think we could be in with a chance of things going our way

    1. pab – very good point re Tom Younds, but the main reason that happene,d and the main reason also why marler struggled (other than his knee) is because Parling lacks the power to lock out that side of the scrum. the locks job, is to lock the front row together to stop them from being shifted, as Tom Y and Marler was, laterally and backwards.

      thats why i dont rate parling. he can get away with it @ Leicester.

      1. That’s a good point about Parling and why, despite the fact that he had a reasonable game, I’d prefer to see him replaced by someone like Attwood, Garvey or Kitchener.

      2. I think someone said that Tom Youngs has very short arms for a Hooker. Is this true? Is this something that will affect the binding in the front row?

        1. If you are the same Staggy that I know from the past you could ask Ted. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, apologies

      3. I agree with you that we would benefit from more second row grunt, but I think it was a secondary issue last week. If both props (wasn’t just Marler last week) get separated from the hooker then we would still get splintered even if there were 2 Ollie Kohns in the second row. So the way I would see it is unless we can sort out the front row then we will be penalised heavily at the scrum, if we sort out the front row then we may be competitive. When Corbs came on in the summer (both Du Plessis were still on the field) we had a couple of really dominant scrums, Bok replacements came on and Corbs was still really dominant.

      4. Bit harsh on Parling who was locking on the Loosehead side and Youngs & Marler were staying together, it was on the Tight that Youngs was getting separated from Cole. palmer’s a very good player but not a No. 4 (the harder, more abrasive Second Row who should lock out the Tight side). I’d definitely like to see a ‘nastier’ player come in at 4 – Lawes or Attwood (why has he dropped off the radar? I’m always very impressed with him – hard and with an edge but got the athleticism of a modern lock to go with it!). Launchbury is a very good young player and won’t let us down but again I dont see him as a No. 4, not sure he’s ready to run a line out, so for me he’s still an impact player from the bench.

        Not sure having short arms would be that big an issue, maybe the strength to grip could be more of a problem?

  2. Afriad to say that I have gone for a SA win (after an abyssmal weekend of Superbru predictions last week!). I can only hope that I am proved wrong, but am concerned that changes because things were going wrong rather than changes because better players are forcing their way into the team is never a good sign.

  3. I would have to say that the Springboks always raise their game whenever they play against the Poms especially in recent history. It’s clear for everyone to see that the Springboks are not playing at their best and that’s due to a lot of factors. Mainly due to a heap of injuries during and after the Super Rugby/Rugby Championship competitions and not to mention the lack of imagination in the backline. But given the go-forward ball provided by the pack, clean set-pieces and the defence to continue where they left off in Scotland, the Boks will wreck havoc upon the English. A packed Twickenham full of English fans becomes extra motivation for the Springboks so as to silence the locals of that magnificent arena. Sooner or later the backline will fire and as a Springbok supporter I hope it will be this weekend to cap off a good tour. Go Bokke!!

  4. Only grounds for optimism is we finished all 3 of the summer tests (even at altitude) very strongly, so may be the fitter team. So key is can we put enough pace into the game to make that tell in the last 20?

    I’m not confident we can, reason we are on such a long non-winning streak against the Boks is we aren’t physical enough to beat them at their own game, we haven’t been creative/fast/accurate/skillful enough to break them down, we haven’t tackled hard enough (2 man tackles) to prevent the Boks imposing their own game on us. I will be delighted to see this change on Sat but have to unfortunately go with Boks by 10.

    Huge test for Morgan. Physically he’s a match for any of the Bok back row, but went AWOL in the summer. I hope he’s really hungry for the battle because we need him to have a huge game.

  5. One I can sit back and enjoy (the wake comes later in the afternoon for me ) .England V S Africa usually resembles two heavyweights slugging away at each other now whether its Ali v Fraiser or Hayes V Chisora is a matter of debate .

    Just have a feeling that England might sneak this one someone on here said that a two point “wrong type of win ” for England would set them back which is crazy as any win against the SH at the moment would be a step forward and a boost in confidence.

    1. my head on sportguru was exactly the same.

      I know England can beat South Africa, but they have to play right (or South Africa have to play wrong). Home advantage and a little bit too much listening to heart made me pick England by 1 (in the hope that SA don’t win by too much and I’ll get my margin point!)

  6. I would love to see England win and I’m with you when your heart backs England by 1. . Unfortunately, my head says Boks will get the upper hand with their advantage in power in the tight 5 and at the breakdown where our lack of a specialist 7 will once again be exposed. This will be compounded by the lack of penetration/predictability of our backs. Louw to get man of the match again.

    Our best chance IMHO would be if Goode for whatever reason finds himself at 10, Tuilagi moves to wing, Joseph at outside centre, Brown at FB, Robshaw at 6 and Wood at 7.

  7. Boks by 10. England’s gameplan last weekend was to physically boss the game against the Aussies, which they failed to do. If they can’t do it against the Aussies I can’t see them doing it against the physically superior Boks. Tight game for thirty five mins, Boks to score either side of halftime as their physicality shows, then tightens up again till the end.

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