England expectant, SA holding thumbs

2010-11-27 00:00

THE limited Springboks, with little to offer but blood, sweat and fears, have a mountain to climb when they take on Martin Johnson’s confident, well-equipped England at Twickenham in the final Test of their grand slam tour of Britain and Ireland this afternoon.

The Springboks, by their own admission and even in beating Ireland and Wales, are playing below their best and they are not helped by a confused game plan and a coaching staff in fear of the future.

Stung by their humbling reversal against Scotland last week, the wounded Springboks will be fiercely committed today and will be no shortage of effort and intensity. But blood and guts can take you only so far in international rugby and, unless the Springboks suddenly find some cohesion on attack, England’s mix of power, pace and organisation is likely to carry the day.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is convinced that he is on the right track both in terms of selection and tactically. The Springboks’ problems, he insists, are because of the players’ poor execution.

Certainly De Villiers, and the senior players, appear unwilling, or unable, to embrace the changing game and the Boks have made no tactical advances this year in spite of law changes.

The Springboks’ determination to stay with their limited game plan, one based on pressure and territory rather than keeping the ball in hand, may not be as noticeable today when the conditions are again expected to discourage a flowing approach.

Instead, we will have to wait for the money-making Barbarians frolic next Saturday to see the future of Springbok rugby when the youngsters on tour will be let loose playing an expansive game.

The Bok coaches are, with good reason, running scared. Backline coach Dick Muir said the management team could be axed if the Boks fail again today.

“Most coaches end up getting fired,” Muir said. “Our public back home expect you to come over here and get the win. If you don’t get the result, then heads will roll.”

The Murrayfield defeat last Saturday left the grand slam dream in tatters and De Villiers’ other assistant, Gary Gold, hurt by the Boks’ lack of desire, said it was one of his worst days in rugby.

“We know we let the country down, so it just means we are going to have to make up for it by beating England,” he said.

The Boks certainly can win, if they match their first ball-carrying efforts half against Ireland, keep pressuring the English for 80 minutes and refrain from making premeditated, unnecessary substitutions. But it is a massive task at the fag-end of a long year and a demanding tour played in dreadful conditions.

While the Springboks have been hit by drug charges, defeat and ongoing criticism, fresh and enthusiastic England have enjoyed an almost perfect build-up to the Test. They were rusty against the All Blacks but found their feet in the second half of a narrow defeat and then gained momentum as they whipped the Wallabies and then Samoa when they rested a number of their key players.

Johnson has predicted a “big, big game and a full-blooded” encounter with the Boks.

“Whenever you play South Africa, you know what you are going to get in terms of intensity. We will have to play at a very high level to win. It will be physical, intense and a great Test match.”

After six successive losses to the Springboks, Martin Johnson’s young team, many just setting out on international careers, are desperate to make their mark. It will be hard and bruising but — with the massed Twickenham choir swinging low and carrying them home — England are the more likely winners.

England are expecting, South Africans are grimly holding thumbs … and that is the difference today.



England (15-1): Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Mike Tindall, Shontayne Hape, Mark Cueto; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Nick Easter, Lewis Moody (captain), Tom Croft; Tom Palmer, Courtney Lawes; Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Andrew Sheridan. Replacements: Steve Thompson, Matt Banahan, Danny Care, Hendre Fourie, David Wilson, Simon Shaw, Charlie Hodgson

South Africa (15-1): Zane Kirchner; Gio Aplon, Frans Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Lwazi Mvovo; Morné Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (captain), Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Adrian Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Willem Alberts, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Adi Jacobs.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).



Kick-off: 4.30 pm – live on M-Net, SuperSport 1 and SuperSport HD

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