Boks look for clean sweep

2012-06-23 00:00

TACTICAL roles will be reversed in Port Elizabeth this evening when England, desperate to avoid a whitewash, take on the Springboks in the third and final Test.

England were twice overpowered by the Bok forwards — in the second half at King’s Park and the first at Ellis Park — in losing the first two Tests and the series, but coach Stuart Lancaster believes his pack can still bully the Boks.

He has selected accordingly, opting for players who finished strongly off the bench at Ellis Park last Saturday in an attempt to unsettle the Boks.

Lancaster is looking to number eight Thomas Waldrom, flank James Haskell and lock Tom Palmer to add muscle at the breakdown and win the collisions.

“It all comes down to an 80-minute performance,” said Lancaster. “We have to start well and then really build the momentum throughout the course of the game.

“James Haskell has brought a lot of energy to the team, but energy is one thing and physicality is quite another. We are looking for him to play that role, both as a defender and as a ball carrier. Thomas will also have a big role to play in that regard, and both he and Tom Palmer impressed me when they came off the bench last week.”

The Boks, in contrast, have hinted at keeping the ball in hand rather than kicking it, with coach Heyneke Meyer selecting the small but lively Gio Aplon at fullback and adding an attacking backrower in Ryan Kankowski to the bench. Certainly the holes that wing JP Pietersen found on the counter-attack in Johannesburg will encourage Aplon to run the ball back at the English tonight.

But events are already conspiring against both coaches.

The forecast of rain and a slippery ball could well force the Boks to retreat into the laager and rely on Morné Steyn’s boot and the territory game to see them to clean sweep, while Lancaster yesterday suffered a blow when he lost his powerful loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero to a recurrence of a knee injury.

The 23-year-old Corbisiero exposed Bok replacement Werner Kruger in the last quarter in the second Test and Lancaster was looking to him to set the mood in the front-row tonight.

The Boks have also suffered with the loss of flank Willem Alberts and rookie Jacques Potgieter will now have to lead the Bok charge.

Meyer, in making no unforced changes to his starting line-up, is determined that his team stay on the winning road ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Captain Jean de Villiers yesterday agreed that defeat would be a major setback for his players.

“England are determined to end their tour on a high, but we don’t want to give them that feeling,” he said. “We do have some momentum, but there is a sense that if we lose we will have to start from scratch.

“Winning three times against the same opposition will also be a special moment and it could take us on to higher things.”

He said there were definite areas for improvement.

“We conceded three tries last week and we know it is not good enough. We can also improve at the set pieces and we were disappointed with our finishing.”

De Villiers said that in spite of the forecast of rain the Boks hoped to pressure the England defence by carrying the ball.

“We have to be ready for anything this week, whatever the weather or England throw at us.

“We will be trying to identify space like we did last week. But we will have to play to the conditions, and we will have to get the first phases going before we move the ball.”

And, standing all alone at the back, will be the slight figure of Gio Aplon, hoping that his captain is right and that it will be a running, passing evening and not one of high balls and thumping tackles as the Springboks go in search of their 10th successive win over England.

TEAMS

Springboks – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson.

England – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Paul Doran Jones, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Brad Barritt.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia). Kick-off: 5.00 pm

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