Great debate: Springboks v England

Great Debate (File)

Cape Town - On Saturday in Johannesburg, the Springboks will take on England in their first home match of 2018.

It will be coach Rassie Erasmus' second match in charge following Saturday's 22-20 loss to Wales in Washington with a watered-down 'A' team. 

This, though, is the real Test and Erasmus will be desperate to get the three-Test series off to a winning start. 

There are just 15 months to go until the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and, given the horrors of the last two international seasons under previous coach Allister Coetzee, the Boks have a long way to go if they are to mount a serious challenge in Japan.

In the first of a Sport24 series we are calling the 'Great Debate', editor Garrin Lambley and journalist Lloyd Burnard look ahead to Saturday's clash and weigh up the Springboks' chances. 

After reading, tweet us @Sport24News - or email mysport@sport24.co.za - and let us know how you see things panning out on Saturday. 


Yes, the Boks were horrible against Wales, but this will be a vastly different team and the Ellis Park factor cannot be ignored. 

While the Springbok 'B-team' was dishing up a mess in Washington, the first-team players were back home in South Africa fully focused on England. 

We already have a good idea of what the starting line-up will be, and the likes of Jean-Luc du Preez and Duane Vermeulen will add some much-needed ball-carrying muscle to the pack, while Franco Mostert and RG Snyman in the second row look a dangerous pairing.  

Handre Pollard at flyhalf will give the Boks more stability and consistency with the boot, which will be crucial throughout the series, while Tendai Mtawarira has been in superb form for the Sharks this year. His experience will provide the platform at scrum time. 

This Boks will have a good balance of youth and experience on Saturday with a number of exciting, in-form Super Rugby players given a crack. 

Then, there is the fairytale appointment of Siya Kolisi as captain, and while fairytales do not win rugby matches, the players will rise to the occasion. 

It is a massive night for South Africa, and it will see England up against 23 years of history in the making as well 15 pumped up Springboks. 

The visitors have hardly been firing under Eddie Jones, but they remain a dangerous and far more settled unit. 

Their decision to spend the week training at sea level in Durban, though, was puzzling and with this expected to be a bruising, physical encounter, that could come back to bite them in the final quarter of the match. 

As bad as things were under Allister Coetzee, he still managed to come out with home series wins against Ireland and France during his only two June series in charge. I'm expecting Erasmus to do the same. 

While this Bok side will be more experienced than the one that went to America, it is still very green and there will be several players - Snyman, Lukhanyo Am, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi - with limited to no Test exposure. 

Experience-wise, it is 'advantage England'.

That said, I'm banking on the Ellis Park crowd to bring something out in these players on what promises to be a memorable night for not only South African rugby, but South African sport. 

It is a new beginning, and there will be teething problems, but the Boks will get the job done and give the South African public the injection of optimism they are craving.


Make no mistake, I'm expecting a titanic battle at Ellis Park with no more than three points separating the sides after 80 minutes. But a loss is a loss, and that's exactly the fate that awaits Rassie Erasmus' Springboks on Saturday...

The Springboks displayed a worrying lack of depth in going down to the weakest Wales side in years (perhaps ever) in Washington last weekend. Even more concerning is the Bok starting XV that's widely expected to play seven days later is as green behind the ears.

This England side? Not so much.

Factors doing the rounds, but be ignored heading into the Ellis Park clash, include England's recent defeat to a star-studded Barbarians side: No more than a handful of the starting Englishmen that day will start this weekend.

In addition, England's Six Nations performance earlier this year can be forgotten. There's no disgrace in watching a red-hot world No 2-ranked Ireland side lift the trophy. Oh, and they beat Wales' strongest XV...

And forget the fact England have never won a series in South Africa as Eddie Jones has never coached an England side in South Africa...

Erasmus is not a head coach. Erasmus is a Director of Rugby at best. He may have signed a six-year contract as SA Rugby's Director of Rugby, but I'd bet my very last cent that post the 2019 Rugby World Cup the Springboks will have a different face at the helm of the national team.

Erasmus' only previous gig at a club of any note was a one-year stint at Munster. Contrast that with Jones who has coached (among others) the Wallabies, Brumbies, Saracens, Japan, as well as being Jake White's assistant coach during the RWC-winning 2007 campaign and now England for the past two years.

His time as Japan boss is particularly nightmarish for Springboks fans. Follow the logic here: Jones took a Japan side (weaker than the England side on Saturday) and beat a Springbok side (significantly more experienced that Saturday's side) at the 2015 World Cup.

In the coaching stakes it's: England 1, Springboks 0.

While it's true Saturday's match won't be played in the coaches' box, on the field the Boks' lack of combinations is particularly concerning.

The front row have never played together as a trio, the locks are second row Super Rugby enemies, the loose trio hail from Cape Town, Durban and Toulon, the scrumhalf left the country after failing out of favour with the fans (and coach), the flyhalf is a Bull, the inside centre saw red in his last meaningful Test 'contribution', his midfield partner has fewer than 60 seconds of Test experience, the wings are both on debut and the fullback, well, copy and paste the fate that befell his team-mate at No 9.

As a proud, yet realistic, South Africa fan, I'll be shouting for the men in green and gold, but my hard-earned cash will be going down on an England victory.

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England 0
Pakistan 139/2 (49 ov)
loading... Live
England 0
Pakistan 139/2 (49 ov)
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