Date: 16th June 2012
Referee: Alain Rolland
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
When there is not enough time to put plans into place, brute force is a worthy substitute. The Boks might have only had five days to prepare last weekend with a series of new faces, but their physicality against England was on another level even for the likes of Chris Robshaw, Mouritz Botha and Dylan Hartley. They will have benefited from an extra week in camp immensely, perfecting their set-piece and combinations for the 2nd Test at altitude.
Indeed, playing where the air is sparse means that the Boks should up the tempo from their standard kick-chase pattern, hammering harder through the back row along with the work of Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn in midfield. Durban might have been a winning start to a brand new era but a great side does not concede tries in the 79th minute, regardless of the scoreline. Joburg could be where the Boks kick on.
Brave? Yes. Bold? Undoubtedly. But England were second best in Durban in a game where they had to take advantage of their hosts minimal preparations and failed. Their speed and enthusiasm at the breakdown early on showed that they were up to the task, but the more the Springboks gelled England found it tougher to cope with their physicality around the fringes.
The 3rd quarter in particular had England persistently trying to knock back Springbok tacklers for an insane amount of time until gaps inevitably opened and bodies crumpled. Finding enough air to maintain a high level of intensity in Johannesburg will be their main challenge, along with trying to unlock what proved to be a stubborn South African defence bar Ben Foden’s moment at the end. It will not get any easier.
What to Expect:
England to play with a touch more verve going forward. Brad Barritt’s nasty eye injury has forced Stuart Lancaster to select a new centre pairing in Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph. Moving the Samoan born Leicester Tiger infield gives England more power off first phase, with the hope that his explosiveness will create enough space for Joseph and the back three to exploit.
That is, if they get possession. The Boks will be sharper at the breakdown than they were last week, so expect a greater physical battle in that area especially. Both sides lack a specialist fetcher in the David Pocock mould which is a blow because this game is tailor made for a player with that ability. Morné Steyn wasn’t perfect with his boot last week and the Boks still won. Individual performances are everything.
Head to Head: Jean de Villiers & Jonathan Joseph
South Africa’s captain was in outstanding form last weekend, rising to the occasion of guiding his new caps through their first 80 minutes of international rugby along with scoring what proved to be the all-important try in the second half. For subtle hands and vision for a gap, there are few better in world rugby.
Joseph has 3 minutes of Test action under his belt compared to de Villiers’ 73 caps, but the young back from London Irish has promise. England have been searching for the kind of raw pace and side step that he has in his locker for a while now. At 21, there is no limit to his future on the international scene, but Saturday will be his biggest test so far.
Ones to Watch: Juandré Kruger & Toby Flood
Kruger left quite the impression on the Aviva Premiership during his stint here a few years back, enough that his departure was bemoaned by Northampton fans when he decided to return to the Bulls and become a South African international. As you’d expect from a lock based in Pretoria, he is an outstanding presence in the lineout and scrum, with hands able to create plenty of opportunities.
Flood’s return has come at the expense of young Owen Farrell due to England not creating enough. Therefore if Flood fails, he can probably expect the same short thrift from critics if England are not firing on all cylinders, especially given their increased firepower in midfield. He has the experience to perform in these matches, and England need him badly to show it.
Last Saturday’s defeat in Durban was originally perceived as England’s best chance for a win, but the truth is a defeat in the 2nd Test could make the final match in Port Elizabeth the main opportunity. Because in Johannesburg, at altitude, their chances are slim. South Africa by 8
by Ben Coles