Date: 23th June 2012
Referee: Steve Walsh
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
It’s doubtful as to whether we will see a more powerful half from a team all year. Ellis Park has witnessed many famous Springbok performances but the opening 40 of the 2nd Test were a real statement. Sure, the Boks were lucky the first try from Willem Alberts was given and Toby Flood’s try dented the scoreline, but the power coming from Bismarck du Plessis, Pierre Spies and Alberts was unstoppable. It was quite the statement as England fell off tackles and prayed for the half time whistle.
The second half saw the Boks either run out of steam or lose focus, letting England cut down their 18 point lead to just four. This will have been scrutinised by the Bok coaching staff all week as they look to cut down errors. There are new faces across the starting XV as well in Gio Aplon, Wynand Olivier and Jacques Potgeiter.
Obliterated in the first half in Johannesburg, England showed plenty of spirit and some dominance in the set-piece to get back into the game against the Springboks, ultimately coming up short though thanks to JP Pietersen’s late try. There were positives in the performances of Tom Johnson and Chris Robshaw at the breakdown, not to mention Ben Youngs and Toby Flood at half back, but generating positive attacks proved tricky against a brutal Bok defence.
England have paid the price for that physicality by losing Robshaw, Youngs and Corbisiero for Saturday’s Test, meaning another reshuffle in the backline and a recall for James Haskell and Tom Palmer in the pack. Stuart Lancaster’s side appeared to gain an edge in the scrum with Corbisiero’s inclusion off the bench last week but the London Irish prop was ruled out this morning, denting England’s chances. With the series gone, pride is at stake.
What to Expect:
The visitors’ defence has to be sharper than last weekend when 35 tackles were missed. No side will ever win a Test match with that stat looming over them. One on one defence has been a concern all tour for Lancaster’s coaching team and the Boks will run hard once more, freeing up Bismarck & co. for big runs from deep to get beyond the gain line. The scrum must hold firm and lineout possession be secured for any chance of victory.
South Africa might consider increasing their kicking game after running hard for arguably too long last week in Joburg, but Morné Steyn is enduring a difficult series with the boot and looking for some form ahead of The Rugby Championship. Potgeiter is a proven menace at the breakdown in Super Rugby, leaving James Haskell with his work cut out.
Head to Head: Gio Aplon & Alex Goode
A surprising omission from the inital South Africa squad for this series, Aplon has suffered criticism throughout his career regarding his diminutive stature not being up to the level of Test rugby. The fact is, he is phenomenally quick and given space to run from deep will cause England’s defence real trouble.
Alex Goode’s inclusion on the other hand is long overdue in the eyes of many after outstanding form for his club Saracens dating back to 2010. A capable kicker who is solid under the high ball, this will be a big challenge for Goode as he becomes England third full back in three matches on tour.
Ones to Watch: Jacques Potgeiter & Danny Care
Set to grab his opportunity in the absence of Willem Alberts, Potgeiter has developed nicely with the Bulls over recent seasons, doing enough to warrant selection at openside flanker. A back rower with real pace, he is a serious threat on the floor when it comes to turning over possession, an element the Springboks have lacked so far in their opening two matches.
Danny Care meanwhile returns to an England Test match following the injury to Ben Youngs. It has been a long but fruitful road to redemption for the Harlequin, a turbulent season resulting in a first Premiership title and a real return to form that saw him comprehensively stand out against the SA Barbarians South over a week ago in Kimberley. Big chance to impress.
With Heyneke Meyer only making limited changes to his side, and the number of major injuries England have suffered over the last week, the chance of sneaking a win against a weakened South Africa in the 3rd Test looks to have gone. England will give everything, but come up short. South Africa by 9
by Ben Coles