England faces South Africa in the second test of this three game series. After losing last week in Durban, Stuart Lancaster’s men must win on Saturday to draw the series and take it to a winner takes all game next week. Leave your predictions or comments either in the comments below or as always on Twitter @ballintouch
England’s best chance of beating South Africa on this tour was probably last week, at sea level against a side with barely a week’s preparation together and several new caps. The result if you missed it was a narrow 22-17 loss for Stuart Lancaster’s men that showed some encouraging stuff that ultimately fell short.
The next game this Saturday is in Johannesburg at Ellis Park, a stadium renowned for being at altitude and a happy hunting ground for South Africans, especially in 1995. Besides the extra week of getting-to-know-you time the South Africans have now had, the fact it is so high above sea level means the thinner air will leave those not acclimatised to it gasping as the game goes on and their lungs are stretched to breaking point. It also means that the balls will be flying about another 10 metres from kicks and it is this that could be a big difference to England.
South Africa have stuck with the same side bar Pat Lambe in at full back due to injury to Zane Kirchner but it will be the boots of the non-brothers Steyn, Frans and Morne. The latter didn’t have the best of the days at the office last week and a repeat of this seems unlikely, especially when he has that extra range the Highveld offers to make use of. English discipline must be even better than usually required as pot shots from 60 metres become posiibilities.
England have lost a couple of players through injury. Mike Brown has gone home nursing a broken thumb meaning Ben Foden has switched back to his usual full-back role. The loss of “second full-back” Brown and his steadiness under the high ball and big left boot will be a loss toEngland, especially when the aerial bombardment that is South Africa’s kick-chase game begins.
England need to work harder to match them in this facet of their game as the contrast in the first Test was there for all to see. Ben Youngs has held off Lee Dickson to start again despite a solid cameo from the Saints man from the bench and needs to be more accurate with his box kicks. Too many went too long or aimlessly upfield.
His kicking will be an important outlet in their own half forEnglandto try and relieve some pressure from the recalled Toby Flood, starting for England for the first time since the World Cup and the only other recognised kicker on the field. Owen Farrell failed to dominate the game last week and it was the midfield that was England’s weakest point last time. Flood, in partnership with Youngs his Leicester Tigers half-back partner, should rectify this.
The loss of Brad Barritt for this game has seen Manu Tuilagi slide across into the 12 shirt. This should provide England with a better focal point going forward as the Leicester man was one of the only England players to regularly get across the gain line. Playing him at 12 should suck in the roaming South African back rowers and create a chink of light for Jonathan Joseph, his fellow 21 year old makes his first start at 13.
Tuilagi needs to be more disciplined in defence and work harder to get the ball out wide, carrying it in two hands rather than his usual up the jumper approach and look for the offload if he takes contact, or atleast draw the man as a minimum for runners around him. He will regularly take more than one defender with him and by all accounts Joseph has the footwork to work the gaps left.
Ashton too should be looking to come off his wing as he started to do last week and exploit the space created. A few inside balls off Flood will keep the slide defence honest and with Foden having free reign of where to join the line now he has 15 on his back I would expect England to look more threatening out wide than last week.
The non-inclusion of James Haskell and Danny Care even on the bench took me slightly by surprise, the latter especially after an excellent display against the Southern Barbarians on Wednesday, but Lancaster has demonstrated he wants to be loyal to these players and play them consistently to develop an understanding that is still in its infancy.
Willem Alberts caused havoc with his runs from deep and we need someone like Ben Morgan to do this too. The Gloucester-bound man was subdued last time and possibly over-awed at the raw physicality of the hosts. If South Africa are allowed to go through the gears as they did in the third quarter then England will struggle once again, especially if they can play like that for a full half. Thomas Waldrom is on the bench, offers the required go forward and lived up to his Tank nickname in the mid-week fixture.
If England allow South Africa to attack for extended periods like last time they will lose by a bigger margin than five points. Putting the South Africans under pressure in their own half must be the order of the day and thus England’s kicking game must match South Africa’s as a minimum and the hard work in the breakdown from last week must be served up with added physicality. We must be more South African-esque at the rucks and mauls.
On paper I would expect South Africa to win this game by about 10 points, England matching them for most of the first 40-60 minutes until the more acclimatised South Africans pull away in the last quarter to take the win and the series. Of course the good thing about rugby is that is isn’t played on paper.
Kick off: 16:00 BST Saturday, Johannesburg
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa 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 Waldrom, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Alex Goode.
South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François 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 Tendai 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.