Date: Saturday, 16th June
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 4:05pm BST
Well what a test-match. What spirit and belief to comeback from a 24-3 deficit, hats off for Siya Kolisi for galvanising his team so well. Also what an atmosphere Ellis Park was for 60 minutes, that place can be unbelievable! But now onto Bloemfontein where an intriguing 2nd test follows…
It will be interesting to see how South Africa are going to continue their momentum going into this test, will they keep the tactics the same? Or will they change the plan knowing that England might have prepared for some of the things that South Africa did last weekend?
There are still some glaring flaws that Erasmus needs to address to before Saturday, South Africa’s defence was nonexistent at times last Saturday (so was England’s to be fair) and needs urgent adjustments. Yes they can target the breakdown, but they won’t always able to disrupt 100% of the time therefore they need to buck up their ideas. I’m sure Dyantyi will learn not to rush up so quickly in defence, but other issues need to be addressed especially missed tackles. This isn’t Super Rugby, the South Africans need to learn to defend properly. The Cheetahs have learnt and adapted well to that in Pro14 but only Oupa Mahojé and Ox Nché from the Cheetahs are in the extended squad (Nché has since been released back to the Cheetahs). In the long run, South Africa should probably appoint a defence coach from the Northern hemisphere, but for this test and the rest of the series the players must have that desire and commitment to make those tackles.
Tendai Mtawarira has made history by reaching a full century of caps. The Beast is set to become the 6th South African to reach the big 100 and the first black South African to achieve this amazing feat.
There have been a couple of changes from head coach Erasmus as Jesse Kriel returns to the matchday squad replacing Elton Jantijes on the bench while in the forwards Frans Malherbe comes in for Wilco Louw who is absent from the matchday squad, and Pieter-Steph du Toit swaps places with Jean-Luc du Preez to start at 7.
Here is the side facing England on Saturday.
15. le Roux (Wasps, England), 14. Nkosi (Sharks), 13. Am (Sharks), 12. de Allende (Stormers), 11. Dyantyi (Lions), 10. Pollard (Bulls), 9. de Klerk (Sale Sharks), 1. Mtawarira (Sharks), 2. Mbonambi (Stormers), 3. Malherbe (Stormers), 4. Synman (Bulls), 5. Mostert (Lions), 6. Kolisi (Captain/Stormers), 7. P.S du Toit (Stormers) & 8. Vermeulen (Toulon)
16. van der Merwe (Sharks), 17. Kitshoff (Stormers), 18. T.du Toit (Sharks), 19. J.L du Preez (Sharks), 20. Notshe (Stormers), 21. van Zyl (Bulls), 22. Kriel & 23. Gelant (Both Bulls)
The drought continues. That’s all I have to say really. They have another chance, another lifeline, another opportunity. Free State Stadium isn’t a traditional fortress of the Boks, it was only built in 1995 for the World Cup but unfortunately for England, the stadium still sits at a mile above sea level.
England will probably look for a steadier start this time round and will likely use the bench earlier to reinvigorate the finisher strategy, something that hasn’t functioned or been applied effectively by England in 2018. I also hope they really target the breakdown, Faf de Klerk was the spark for South Africa last week and England must stop him at source. If Brad Shields and Tom Curry create mayhem at the ruck and deny the Boks quality ball then the pace that de Klerk can inject into the game will be diminished and England’s defence can close in quicker on the threats of Nkosi and le Roux out-wide.
The English also need to shore up their defence, last week their defence looked structureless, almost a great impression of Super Rugby to be honest. Back during their record-equalling winning run, their defence was tight and so quick off the mark that the opposition playmakers couldn’t ship the ball. But nowadays the defence is neither tight nor is one that drifts, England just stand there cluelessly. That needs to stop. Now historically England have always conceded a lot of points on tour under Eddie Jones but they need to be absolutely watertight for the 2nd test. For me, they need to draw inspiration from what is, in my opinion, one of the best English defensive performances of all time which was the 2nd test vs the Wallabies in 2016. Now if England can be as good defensively as they were in the AAMI Park in Melbourne then this test is very much winnable.
In a somewhat reasonable response to last week’s opening defeat, Eddie Jones has brought in Brad Shields to start his 1st game for England, which means that Chris Robshaw has been dropped from of the matchday squad for a non-injury-related reason for the 1st time under Eddie Jones. The Daly/Brown experiment hasn’t been reverted but I still have faith in Eddie’s thinking there. I don’t think the plan is to have Brown at left wing in Japan in a year’s time, but rather to develop Daly as a fullback and still have the solidarity that Brown brings to the fore on the pitch.
The fact that Genge is still absent from the matchday squad still worries me, and that’s not me viewing the situation with Tigers-tinted spectacles. I’m sure a majority of England fans will agree with me that Genge is by far a better impact player than Joe Marler, in fact a better player just in general. I’ve heard rumours he’s injured but pictures of him training on social media seem to contradict that rumour. Also the retention of Henry Slade, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler has disappointed me, but hasn’t surprised me that much.
Here is the team that Eddie Jones has named to take on the Springboks tomorrow.
15. Daly (Wasps), 14. May (Leicester), 13. Slade (Exeter), 12. Farrell (Saracens), 11. Brown (Harlequins), 10. Ford, 9. Youngs (Both Leicester), 1. M.Vunipola, 2. George (Both Saracens), 3. Sinckler (Harlequins), 4. Itoje (Saracens), 5. Launchbury (Wasps), 6. Shields (Wasps/Hurricanes), 7. Curry (Sale), 8. B.Vunipola (Saracens)
16. Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), 17. Marler (Harlequins), 18. Williams (Exeter), 19. Wilson (Newcastle), 20. Hughes (Wasps), 21. Spencer (Saracens), 22. Cipriani (Wasps) & 23. Solomona (Sale)
All eyes on
For South Africa, my eye is on Handre Pollard. He missed a couple of kicks (although obviously difficult) which could have spelled the death for the Boks in the 1st test. England are going to be really up for it this 2nd test, discipline should have been addressed in the week but emotions and the stakes will run high on Saturday night. Penalties will be given. It is essential that Pollard gets as many penalty kicks and conversions as possible. He also needs to control that Springbok backline and really attack that gainline as he seeks to fulfil the Henry Honiball type role that Erasmus has touted him to do so in the media. Plus, with no Elton Jantjies on the bench, he’ll be expected to play the full 80 minutes, and an injury to Pollard could leave the Boks short of options.
For England, my eyes are on Brad Shields who has been given his 1st start after only spending two weeks in the England camp. The new Wasps player will try to trouble the breakdown, which is why Eddie Jones and the RFU have gone through so much hassle to bring him in. He will also look to make his presence felt in defence and making the hard yards in defence. Stopping quick, quality ball by putting in dominant hits and disrupting the ruck will stop de Klerk being as effective as he was last Saturday in Johannesburg. Is it too early for Shields? I don’t think so, the time is now to show whether Shields was worth the trouble.
Head to head
Last week Faf de Klerk was clearly the better of the two scrumhalves but Ben Youngs did outshine him in the Premiership when Leicester beat Sale so the England No9 does have the calibre to outplay de Klerk and also give Pieter-Steph du Toit nightmares yet again. While Duane Vermeulen won the battle of the No8s last Saturday, Billy Vunipola is [hopefully] getting back into his stride, so expect to see this contest to be more tightly fought this time. Maro Itoje will also look to get one back over RG Synman, who couldn’t have had a better debut at Ellis Park, whilst trying not to give too many penalties away!
England will be absolutely gunning to win this test, they simply have to otherwise it’s much game over. This is harder to predict than last week’s game, the exclusion of Robshaw could be good news for England. Was my spot-on prediction a fluke last week? Probably, but I’m going to predict that England will nip this test. England by 5
By Jacob Bassford