Preview: South Africa ‘A’ v England Saxons

Date published: June 16 2016

England Saxons will be hoping to make it a 2-0 series whitewash over South Africa 'A' when the two teams collide at Outeniqua Park on Friday.

After a hugely impressive 32-24 win in Bloemfontein that was secured after a superb first-half, the Saxons know their hosts will be hurting.

It was such a clinical opening 40 minutes from the Saxons as they led 22-3 but they will surely know South Africa won't be slow out of the blocks again. But, there did seem to be a greater fluidity in England's play and with changes made by the home side, 2-0 is definitely on.

Johan Ackermann has made 10 in total to his XV as Sergeal Petersen, Lukhanyo Am, Francois Brummer and Piet van Zyl start in the backline. Arno Botha, Jean-Luc du Preez, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe and Malcolm Marx come in to try and firm up the pack.

Marx is definitely one for the future and could soon be a Springbok if he continues the sort of form he has demonstrated for the Lions in Super Rugby. Petersen is another who could knock on the door with a strong game, particularly after JP Pietersen's off day in Cape Town.

England meanwhile will hope they don't lose much in Alex Lewington's injury enforced absence. With Christian Wade coming in on the wing as one of two changes – the other seeing Dave Ewers replace Sam Jones – coach Ali Hepher will hope consistency brings another win.

It's hard to argue otherwise as Danny Cipriani should get the upper hand on Francois Brummer while another week together as a group seems to have further improved the spirit in the Saxons camp. Now they will be desperate to finish the job in George and head home on a high.

"We've got to improve again," said head coach Hepher, who knows his team won't have things as easy as they did early on in Bloemfontein.

"South Africa will come back with an improved performance and so we need to make a shift as big, if not bigger than they do.

"We've been working on certain things in training so that we can put more into the games and take our opportunities better when they come. We'll be looking to be more clinical this week."

Players to Watch

For South Africa 'A': It is good to see Cheetahs wing Sergeal Petersen given an opportunity on the wing as his Super Rugby form has been excellent. Such a dangerous runner when allowed space, the Saxons will need to limit the ball Petersen sees. Elsewhere the inclusion at 12 of Lukhanyo Am is interesting as he's played his rugby for the Kings on the wing. In such a key spot, the pressure is on him.

For England: The inclusion of Christian Wade and Dave Ewers will add plenty of quality to the Saxons XV. Wade will be keen to grab his opportunity in a solid back-three while flanker Ewers comes in for Sam Jones in the back-row. Ewers has been such a destructive carrier for Exeter Chiefs and his inclusion should help England in the expected physical onslaught that will come from the South Africans.

Head-to-head: South Africa 'A' will be boosted by Malcolm Marx running out from the off in George this Friday, as he goes up against Tommy Taylor. Marx's hulking size and skills with ball in hand are of a high quality and if he can impose himself on the contest then the hosts will threaten. Taylor's more of a mobile hooker who has earned a glowing reputation from his time at Sale. An intriguing tussle awaits.

Prediction: Expect successive wins for the visitors as they've a touch more quality in key positions. England Saxons by ten points.

The teams:

South Africa 'A': 15 Leolin Zas, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Travis Ismaiel

England Saxons: 15 Mike Haley 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Don Armand, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Dave Attwood (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Micky Young, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Sam James

Date: Friday, June 17
Venue: Outeniqua Park, George
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)