South Africa v England 2018: 2nd Test Preview & Prediction

Joe Launchbury

Joe Launchbury

Date: Saturday, 16th June
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 4:05pm BST

South Africa

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.

South Africa:
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

18 thoughts on “South Africa v England 2018: 2nd Test Preview & Prediction

  1. I am far from convinced the players will be gunning to win this.My fear is they won’t be because there’s not enough in it for them.2 more games and then home and holidays.And since it appears these games are “good practice-E Jones” there’s not a lot riding on it.I predict a comfortable win for the Boks by 12-15points

    1. Unfortunately I would have to agree with you there, they really don’t look that convincing this year launch and shields will help a little but as a unit if feel they’re comfortably stronger

    2. I cannot believe that anyone would think that any of the England players would not be gunning to win.

      Doesn’t mean they will win of course, but if England do lose, it will not be for lack of effort or commitment.

      More likely lack of discipline, unforced errors & lacking the ability to cope with the altitude (in itself affecting the former). Like last week in fact.

      I am hopeful but not optimistic for an away win, but feel it is ludicrous to collate a defeat, or a likelihood of defeat with insufficient motivation (if this is another way of describing not “gunning to win”).

  2. Agree with your view about Robshaw, Sinkler and Slade but not about George who I don’t think did much wrong last week apart from falling foul of some fairly cynical tactics when caught on the wrong side of the ball after the tackle. If I was picking a team from the two squads I know which scrum half I would have every time, and it wouldn’t be Youngs. Hopefully Launchbury will have a calming effect on Itoje and give us a bit more grunt on contact. I worry about Sinkler being retained. When your tight head is under pressure the back row have to stay bound for longer leaving less cover close in and in midfield. SA exploited this last week. Curry has huge potential but compare him up against Hooper, Warburton, Tipuric or a number of others and he is too light, too inexperienced and not hardened enough to be playing at this level. He would be better off in the U20’s with his brother. I fancy SA to win again by a few more than last week.

    1. Curry may be more lightweight than Tipuric and Warburton but he’s still only 20. There is plenty of time to pack on mass. Pocock and Hooper are both on the lighter end of the scale when it comes to back-rowers but both are quality players.
      Curry makes lots of tackles and has good body position in the breakdown, and playing on this tour will only help improve him as a player.

      1. Pocock is about 18 stone. I fully accept the points that Curry has plenty of time to bulk up and that he will learn a lot on this tour. My concern is that the fierceness of physical confrontation at this level of the game may lead to injury of a very young player before he has fully developed the power to cope with it. I would have no problem with him on the bench playing 20 minutes, but would much rather have had Armand on tour as a potential starter with the WC looming.

        1. Take yr points about Currey, but as he is in situ as England’s 7, he doesn’t have the luxury of, or time to play in the U 20’s, or maybe even to bulk up? If he ‘s Eddie’s go to guy, he’s got to perform over the next yr & he’s already on short time for the WC. If Armand ought to be in the 7 spot & I don’t disagree that he should’ve have had a shot @ it, then it’s getting a mite late to change hotses now isn’t it?

    2. Im thinking experience doesnt just appear so he needs to play… sometimes throwing talent in at deep end doesnt help… but for curry its a chance to develop his rugby brain. To learn how to effectively slow or steal, brain over braun… once he has the smarts the body will bulk in time… too much wasted time on brute force over forethought… thats part of our penalty problems. Plus if he can operate and be effective without mass you think how good he will be once body catches up… besides who have we got there to replace him? He’s the only true 7 we have on tour

  3. I wouldnt rule out an England win.
    We’ve got a slightly better side out and its hard to believe we will defend as poorly as we did last week.
    We will be better i’m sure.
    SA will likely improve too and i think we have a tight game in prospect.
    5 pts either way is perfectly possible.

  4. There has been a common theme of comments on this blog about England since the Wales game in the six nations being “I’m sure England will be better next game”. But reality is they are still stuck in the mud. It seems to me that they can only improve on one area of the game at a time and then this takes focus away from another area.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Rugger. Last week the attack was more fluid than it’s been in a while but the defence was poor. It all feels a bit “rugby by numbers”

  5. As no news for a bit, especially on last night’s rugger, thought I’d take a backward glance. Read through the 2nd SA v England test post. A few things caught my eye. The 1st was the author’s stating that ‘This isn’t Super Rugby, the South Africans need to defend properly’. Well, I agree with the 2nd part of that statement, but on what basis does he make the generalised 1st part of it about S Rugby ‘D’? Particularly, as he had also acknowledged, that England itself was so poor in this area during the 1st test? Perhaps he doesn’t watch that much S Rugby, or specifically that of Canterbury for instance. If he had, he might have been more prudent in his generalised proclamation on SR ‘D’. The saying, ‘Sealed lips (or keyboard fingers in this case) gather no feet’, comes to mind.

    Also, regarding Shields, surely the onus was more on Currey, as the open side No.7, to obtain quick ball or slow the opposition’s possession down, rather than the, presumably, even if marginally, slower No. 6 Shields. Even if Currey was new to test rugby, he was picked, he must, therefore, technically at least, have been the best available in the country. The expression, ‘England expects’, also springs to mind.

    Finally, this altitude thing. Sure it would have seemed prudent if Eddie had taken his troops to Bloemfontein for training at a higher altitude, but if the thought of it being a significant disadvantage gets into the minds of the players, then it can almost be as good as an admission of going into a defeat, even before a ball has been played. This opinion at least, seems to be in the mindset of the author. Far better, IMO, the view expressed by John Pullen when he played for England over there. Pulled opined that he ‘Didn’t really notice it’, which seems a more appropriate attitude to altitude to me! IOW, no room for defeatist thoughts. It is what it is in Bloemfontein and teams just have to get on with it, as indeed, some have already done.

    1. I do actually watch a considerable amount of Super Rugby and I support the Stormers partially, while yes you’re absolutely correct re: the Crusaders, my point was more aimed at the South African franchises and their defence rather than defence in Super Rugby as a whole.


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