Preview: South Africa v England

Date published: June 18 2012

South Africa have drawn first blood and will be hungry to wrap up the series with another win over England in Jo'burg on Saturday.

South Africa have drawn first blood and will be hungry to wrap up the series with another win over England in Jo'burg on Saturday.

If you thought last weekend's clash was brutal, just wait for the next 80 minutes as these two sides were just getting warmed up.

It's a must-win for the battered and bruised visitors as they attempt to end an eight-match losing streak against the Springboks in order to level proceedings and set up a series decider on June 23.

It's been 12 long years since the English last managed to beat the men in green and gold on their home patch and the challenge is expected to get even tougher as the series moves from sea level of Durban to the Highveld.

The Springboks' limited preparation after only coming together as a squad a week ago will also no longer be a factor. Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has had another week to impress his game-plan on the team and they will be better for it.

It just goes to show how important it was for Stuart Lancaster's troops to beat the undercooked Boks (featuring four new caps as well as a new lock combination) in order to take that all-important 1-0 lead in the series.

Now the English are playing for survival at the fortress of South African rugby, Ellis Park, where the Boks won their first world cup and are just about unbeatable.

But it's not all doom and gloom for the visitors.

In the first 40 minutes in Durban, Lancaster's men more than held their own and for a time the home side were rattled. The half-time score of 6-6 will also give England cause for optimism, but the trick now is to push on for the entire 80 minutes and combat the surge of power from the massive Springbok pack that killed off any chance of the tourists claiming victory.

England also need to find more rhythm on attack. With the exception of Ben Foden's late try, they hardly troubled the Springbok tacklers. Changes to their backline are set to add more attacking sense with a new fly-half, centre combination, wing and full-back lining up in the City of Gold. In fact, only two players – right wing Chris Ashton and scrum-half Ben Youngs – stay where they started at Kings Park.

Their hope will be to move the ball around more, creating holes on the outside and trying to move the Bok pack around the field until the openings come.

Lancaster's change of tactics has put the Boks on high alert, but Meyer – having had more days to prepare – will no doubt have a few tricks up his sleave too and has already fired a warning that the hosts weren't even close to being at their best last time out.

“This team is not even five per cent toward where I want them to be,” said Meyer.

“It is important that we lift our standards this weekend.”

And that can mean only one thing: England are in trouble.

Ones to watch:

For South Africa: There's one change in South Africa's starting XV, which sees young utility back Pat Lambie step in for the crocked Zane Kirchner. The baby-faced Bok made a good second-half appearance off the bench last weekend and now has the ideal opportunity to cement the full-back spot as his own.

For England: England need to unlock South Africa's well drilled defence and the creativity of Jonathan Joseph could be the missing key required. The London Irish centre will make his first start in Johannesburg when he comes in for the injured Brad Barritt – although Manu Tuilagi will shuffle across to inside centre. The 21-year-old came off the bench for a brief cameo in Durban, but he will now be given the chance to impress as England look to add a cutting edge to their backline.

Head to head: Morne Steyn v Toby Flood. Steyn's accuracy and distance from the tee normally punishes any indiscipline, but he had a rare off-day in Durban. However, South Africa's goal-kicking ace is closer to home this week on the Highveld, where he will be looking to make amends with a flawless kicking performance…and perhaps another try? Steyn's opposite number Flood – starting for the first time since the 2011 World Cup quarter-final loss to France – faces the biggest test of his game management in England colours. The recalled Leicester star has ousted 20-year-old Owen Farrell from the pivotal role, and gets an opportunity to unleash some frustrating periods on the sidelines against the Boks.

Recent results:
2011: South Africa won 22-17 in Durban
2010: South Africa won 21-11 in London
2008: South Africa won 42-6 in London
2007: South Africa won 15-6 in Paris
2007: South Africa won 36-0 in Paris
2007: South Africa won 55-22 in Pretoria
2007: South Africa won 58-10 in Bloemfontein
2006: South Africa won 25-14 in London
2006: England won 23-21 in London
2004: England won 32-16 in London
2003: England won 25-6 in Perth
2002: England won 53-3 in London

Rugby Union betting odds

Prediction: England might not be the same team this weekend, but they still need to lift their game if they are to stand a chance. Having been together longer, South Africa now have less excuses if they lose. But luckily for them, we don't see that happening with the added benefit of altitude playing to their advantage. It makes the home side even stronger favourites this week than it did last week and that is the level of challenge facing England. South Africa to win by seven points.

The teams:

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.

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.

Date: Saturday, June 16
Kick-off: 17:00 (16:00 BST, 15:00 GMT)
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

By Dave Morris