England aim to unsettle Boks

2012-06-16 00:00

ENGLAND are looking to their revamped backline to unsettle the Springboks, buck the odds and salvage the series with victory in the second Test at Ellis Park this evening.

England, flattered by the final 22-17 scoreline, were a well-beaten team in the first Test in Durban and the Boks should wrap up the series tonight with their ninth successive win over England.

Most observers agree that King’s Park represented England’s best chance of victory as they faced an underdone Bok side at sea level. The Boks have now had time to settle under their new coach and they are delighted to be playing at altitude.

England coach Stuart Lancaster conceded that Ellis Park was the happiest of hunting grounds for the Boks while it represented a major challenge for his players.

“If you were ticking off a list of toughest places across the world to play rugby, Ellis Park would feature,” he said.

One hopes that the Boks do not feel that events and conditions are so much in their favour that victory will automatically follow. But then half the Boks’ starting line-up are Sharks and they will not need reminding about the dangers of complacency after bumping their heads in their recent Super Rugby loss to the Lions at Ellis Park.

England will be desperate to keep the series alive and they showed in the first half in Durban that they are ready for a scrap.

They will also pose more of an attacking threat tonight with the experienced Toby Flood at flyhalf and the combative Manu Tuilagi, shifted to inside centre, certain to target Morné Steyn defensive channel.

The young, smooth-running Jonathan Joseph at outside centre is a rookie, but English critics believe he will trouble the Bok defences. Backline coach Mike Catt agrees.

“He is a special player who can create something out of nothing. His footwork is phenomenal and his ability to do things at pace creates room for others,” he said.

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, battered, bruised and stitched, said that Flood’s inclusion would provide a fresh defensive challenge for the Springboks.

“Toby will be an imporant player for them,” De Villiers told the media yesterday. “Experience counts for a heck of a lot at this level.

“There are some young guys on his outside that we will need to look after as well, but Toby has a great passing and kicking game. We have to make sure we don’t give him enough time and room to make good decisions.”

The Boks’ major problems in Durban were at the breakdown where their lack of organisation and accuracy compounded scrumhalf Francois Hougaard’s problems.

With England wanting to keep the ball in hand, defence and the breakdown will become even more important and the collisions on the gainline will again be fierce.

Coach Heyneke Meyer said that he was looking for an 80-minute effort from his charges.

“England really played well in the first half in Durban and we struggled to get our game plan going. We have to play tactically, grind down the opposition and hope the holes open up in the second half,” Meyer said.

“We obviously want a strong start but then we must play for the whole 80 minutes.”

While De Villiers was concerned about the rejigged England backline, Lancaster was worrying about Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and company.

“We need to be defensively strong and robust enough to deal with their big ball-carriers coming around the corner and off the back of the lineout,” the England coach said.

“In the last five minutes of the [first] Test, when we had more ball, we did cause them some trouble and we’ll be trying to penetrate in wider channels.”

De Villiers said that the Boks were already reaping the rewards of spending time together at training and said they were playing more instinctively and with greater cohesion.

One hopes that is particularly true of Hougaard, who has all the skill, but often appears inhibited and bogged down tactically.

Pat Lambie will provide an attacking spark from the back but, as we saw in Durban, the forwards have first to create the time and space if the Bok backline is to blossom.

While the Springboks are obvious favourites, the bulldog determination of the English to stay alive in the series will make for another intense, tough contest.

The money is on De Villiers leading the Springboks to victory; the side bet is that his blood will again be spilt in achieving that objective.

TEAMS

Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 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 Keegan Daniel, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Bjorn Basson.

England– 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 David Strettle, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Thomas Wadrom, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Alex Goode.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland). Kick-off: 5.00 pm

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