Investec Internationals Preview: England v South Africa

Investec RugbyDate: 27th November 2010
Kick-off: 14:30
Venue: Twickenham

One defeat and two victories so far in this Investec International series will no doubt have left England fans content. The loss to New Zealand was a blow but England were not completely outclassed; the win over Australia signalled the coming of age of a team that has improved dramatically in the last six months; and then finally against Samoa they showed that they are able to win the gritty contests as well as play eye-catching rugby. Therefore, confidence on Saturday should be high, as England look to notch their first win over the Springboks since 2006.

South Africa:
It has, to say the least, been a rather up and down tour for South Africa. There were major positives: the wins over Wales and Ireland given the number of injuries they are carrying were really quite impressive. However losing Bryan Habana, the drug test mishap which saw Bjorn Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle sent home, and then last weekend losing to Scotland at Murrayfield have all formed into one big psychological hit. It is a testament to the depth of talent in South African rugby that they can bring in players of high quality, and challenge anyone even without the likes of Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger. The hurt from last weekend should have galvanised the squad ahead of facing England on Saturday, but the pressure is on.

What to expect:
England really should not have it as easy in attack as they did when they faced Australia. The pace of Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton are now well known threats internationally, and where David Pocock was ineffective at slowing down England’s ball when on the attack, Juan Smith will look to go one better. Also, where England persistently battered the obvious defensive chink in the Wallaby back line, the 10-12 channel shared by Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau, there will be no such weakness in that area against Morne Steyn and Jean de Villiers.

South Africa’s power has not been lost, and whilst their lineout hasn’t been at its best, it’s still a significant threat. Many might see them as a weakened force but the strength of Pierre Spies and others is not to be forgotten. How they will play though is hard to predict. They are more than capable of playing Blue Bulls 10 man rugby, but there are also threats out-wide. Lwazi Mvovo’s star has risen dramatically following an impressive Currie Cup campaign with the Sharks, and Gio Aplon showed through the Super 14 what an impressive engine he has. Add to all this Frans Steyn’s howitzer of a boot at 13, and there are still options for them despite missing personnel.

All eyes on:
Coming up against Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield at Twickenham would have been a dream for Courtney Lawes two seasons ago. He is slowly but surely cementing his position at this level, and the experiences of playing against Brad Thorn, Nathan Sharpe and Dean Mumm over the last few weeks have kept him learning and feeling his way into test rugby. Opposition players don’t come much more physical than Botha, and that is the kind of contest that Lawes seems to relish. He possesses the perfect mix of respect for his opposition, but confidence that he can beat anyone on the day.

Lwazi Mvovo had a pretty forgettable debut experience at Murrayfield in conditions that were vastly different from the heat of KwaZulu-Natal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier, as this weekend he will make his first appearance at Twickenham, coming up against the in-form Chris Ashton. He will be an unknown quantity not just to England supporters but perhaps to the England management. His pace is electric, but his defence suspect, and there is an area of opportunity on that wing for England to exploit.

Head to head: Nick Easter v Pierre Spies
Plenty of possibilities for this week’s head to head, but the chosen confrontation is the one between Easter and Spies. Easter captained England for the first time in a test match last weekend and seemed to relish the experience, coming away with a beautiful shiner on his left eye after the Samoans showcased their typical aggression. Unfortunately, that level of intensity is not set to wane against the Springboks, and especially when confronted by the remarkable human specimen that is Pierre Spies. The Blue Bulls number eight has taken athleticism in this sport to a whole new level. His size does not diminish his pace, which is equivalent to that of a centre, and Easter will have as much of a challenge of getting past him as he will containing him in defence. A mouth-watering clash.

Nick Heath caught up with the England no.8 at Pennyhill Park:


Weather: Cloudy, and freezing. Gloves and scarves essential.

Last year’s result: The last match-up between these two sides was on 22nd November 2008, England 6-42 South Africa.

England have been in such fine form this Autumn that they probably feel that they can take on and beat anyone. But, South Africa are a wounded beast, raging from last week’s loss to Scotland. Peter de Villiers’ job is under pressure, and if the Boks do not produce a top performance then the sack is not out of the question for the controversial head coach. Twickenham could be becoming a fortress again, whilst the Springboks are enduring a horrible couple of weeks. For that reason, England by 8.

By Ben Coles | Picture: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

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12 thoughts on “Investec Internationals Preview: England v South Africa

  1. Easter looks like a cartoon rugby player with that eye!

    this is going to be a classic sh*t fight, its a 50/50 call on who concedes fewer penalties – since Morne steyn is better kicking under pressure, i think SA will cause an upset

    sorry !

  2. I am surprised Easter is playing considering that eye – personally think Dowson should have at least been call up to at least provide cover on the bench, if not given the game full stop. Personally think England will win, and win fairly comfortably (points wise), though agree it is likely to be a very physical match with more than a few scraps in the game and probably a yellow card or 2. I’m expecting lots of high/illegal tackles, and I also think they’re gonna be gunning for Youngs, who lets face it, is the catalyst for igniting our backs

  3. its gonna be a sh*t fight……
    Saffers know they cant out play us so yes, its gonna be mega feisty.
    Youngs to get ruffed up!

  4. Ben C ha!
    Nick Easter / nightclub bouncer will keep him safe and i think youngs, good Suffolk farming lad, is tougher than he looks.

    i actually think Spies is the most over rated no.8 out there.

    In the tight stuff he often looks a bit vacant, as if he would rather be on the wing running in tries, rather than getting his ears chewed in a ruck.

  5. Wouldn’t say Spies is over rated, but I do agree that he seems more in his element in the loose (hanging out in the centre or on the wing) than in the tight. I’m actually more worried and Juan Smith and Bakkies Botha, and I’m expecting Easter, Moody, Palmer and Lawes to be in full protection mode over Youngs

  6. jimmymc, agree with you about Spies. For such a potentially devastating player he goes missing far too often from large parts of games, usually the tough stuff. As so often, Juan Smith will be the key for South Africa outside the lineout.

    At the event last night (see latest article) Stephen Jones suggested that South Africa were playing for their coach’s job and Jerry Guscott queried whether that is actually any motivation for them and whether they want him to stay. Jones added that he was a political appointment and completely out of his depth. Last week however, Victor Matfield was singing De Villiers’ praises in a big way. Quite a lot of hyperbole but adds an interesting little subplot to the proceedings.

    Whatever happens, there will be blood.

  7. It will be interesting to see what happens to P Divvy at the end of their tour…I think he’ll be around for the World Cup though.

    I had a bit of a shocker earlier in the week…I spoke to Percy Montgomery at the Land Rover event on Wednesday and ask him what he thought of the coach. I think I said, ‘he’s a bit of a clown isn’t he?’

    The reply was fairly curt: ‘I actually get on very well with Peter. He has the respect of everyone in the squad.’

    End of interview.

  8. It takes a very “special” person to turn the world champions into an “average” team. Congratulations PDV lol

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