This is the big one this weekend, and I’m not as confident as I’d like to be as an England fan.
The Springboks have been much more impressive in 2018, with a series win over England and then claiming the All Blacks’ scalp in Wellington. Rassie Erasmus has them playing coherently, with incredible line speed in defence and big tacklers pressuring the opposition into mistakes; then in attack, a powerful pack that generates quick ball, Faf de Klerk recycling it quickly, and Handre Pollard and Willie Le Roux distributing it to the fast men out wide. It’s a simple game.
But, de Klerk and le Roux are unavailable this weekend, with their English clubs refusing to release them for a Test that falls outside the official 3-week window. Genius from the English rugby administration. There’s little depth at scrum-half, and a rookie full-back will no doubt be put under pressure, and I suspect the Springbok attack won’t be quite the same without those two key players.
England is not without its own problems though. A raft of injuries means there’s a raw front row and back row, and whether they can cope with the Bok power is a huge question. England’s attack has looked relatively sharp when provided with quick ball from a dominant pack going forwards, but ball-carriers are far and few between, and I can’t see where they’ll make inroads to generate front-foot ball. When England’s pack has been second best, the backs have looked totally devoid of ideas, and I can’t see how England’s forwards will gain the upper hand on Saturday.
South Africa’s pack will be monstrous, and if they win the scrum battle, win the collisions and win the breakdown, they will win the match.
It’s a classic case of head versus heart for my Superbru pick.
Head: South Africa by 3; Heart: England by 2 (is that allowed?)
What is your prediction for England v South Africa?
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James