Planet Rugby

Preview: England v South Africa

23rd November 2012 06:07

Share:

Mike Brown sprinting in England training

On the wing: Mike Brown

South Africa will be looking to add to their ten-game unbeaten run against England when the two nations collide at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.

Not since the 2006 November internationals have the Boks been pipped by the Red Rose, which is a streak the English are desperate to stamp out.

Only fly-half Toby Flood was involved in that 23-21 victory at this venue and he is one of just three England players to make their debut pre-2010.

Experience is something that Stuart Lancaster is looking to instill in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2015 and it has to be said that when that tournament kicks off, his squad will have both a healthy amount of wins and defeats to utilise in the memory bank - much like the group of 2003.

South Africa meanwhile seem to be a little further down the road to satisfaction as, despite regular grumbles about the defensive gameplan, the tough Springboks are at least demonstrating the cutthroat edge that is needed to triumph in Test rugby. Their attack will improve given time.

Heyneke Meyer's team selection this week shows trust in his players - as we witnessed in the recent Rugby Championship - and it's that faith in Springboks such as Juan de Jongh and Pat Lambie that he hopes will be repaid. Lambie has been told by Meyer to display greater attacking intent at Twickenham than he did at Murrayfield, which will be music to the ears of their supporters who longed for his inclusion when Morne Steyn was at number ten.

It is a different story for the outfit swapping purple for white this coming Saturday as coach Lancaster has wielded the axe on Thomas Waldrom, Charlie Sharples and Tom Palmer, with Waldrom especially unlucky to get the chop after topping both the carrying and tackle statistics against the Australians. Furthermore it was strange to drop the Leicester number eight seeing as Premiership followers have known for seasons what Waldrom's strengths and specialist skills have been. So why now is it suddenly not what England is looking for? Maybe Ben Morgan's upcoming performance this weekend could shed some light on it.

Sharples' omission, meanwhile, is also a touch harsh as we side with former England left wing Mark Cueto's stance that if Sharples is being given an opportunity then surely one has to afford him time to bed into the set-up. His place goes to Harlequins full-back Mike Brown, someone I have long supported to wear England's fifteen jersey because of the threat he poses both at the back and also when he appears up in the first line of attack. However, to play him on the wing is another bold move as while it may help negate South Africa's kicking plan, it will limit England's wide threat. "We have picked a team that will give us the best chance of beating South Africa," Lancaster said after also naming lock Joe Launchbury.

Does that mean England will be bombarding Zane Kirchner? The selection of Ben Youngs ahead of their final dropped player, Danny Care, hints at yes. Consequently we shouldn't expect anywhere near a classic fixture at Twickenham this weekend and the likelihood of tries being scored is pretty much summed up by the "No Try-Scorer" betting option being fourth on the bookies' list behind Chris Ashton, Francois Hougaard and JP Pietersen.

If Pietersen - not on press conference duty this week we might add - was to cross the line on Saturday then it would see him overtake wing Chester Williams in the Springboks' try-scoring list while Jean de Villiers will pass Bryan Habana on 83 caps to move behind Joost van der Westhuizen (89). Personal milestones aside though and it will be the all-important result that matters as England hope for a lift while the Springboks go for eleven straight.

Ones to watch:

For England: Obvious backline candidates are Ben Youngs and Mike Brown, with both's kicking game set to play a part in how things materialise. However we go for Ben Morgan and Alex Corbisiero as the England forward duo have a lot of weight on their shoulders this weekend. Morgan made certain Stuart Lancaster could not overlook him with three tries in the LV= Cup while loosehead Corbisiero has to get on top of Bok Jannie du Plessis.

For South Africa: Rain is expected on Saturday so putting their pack in the right areas for direct running will be key from Ruan Pienaar and Patrick Lambie. The duo have class in abundance with power runners like Willem Alberts and Duane Vermuelen to call upon, the territorial gameplan is expected to be another area of importance. How can we ignore Adriaan Strauss' form too as the faith shown in the vice-captain has paid off in spades.

Head-to-head: Despite being in the news for alleged contact with the eye area at Murrayfield, Eben Etzebeth was subsequently cleared of all wrongdoing and is ready to take to the field against England's newest face Joe Launchbury. The young Wasps lock has rave reviews and has definitely demonstrated he has what it takes at the international level when coming off the replacements bench in recent weeks, so their battle is one to keep tabs on. Etzebeth is tough customer so Launchbury must front up. Meanwhile the back-row battle also excites as six high-quality loose forwards go toe-to-toe in what will be a critical area at HQ.

Recent results:

2012: 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth
2012: South Africa won 36-27 in Johannesburg
2012: 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

Prediction: The talk coming out of South Africa's camp is of tired bodies and limited training sessions which, while believable after a long, arduous year, will surely be put to one side in their season finale. Both sides are struggling to show much in an attacking sense but last week the Springboks definitely had more to smile about than England. And with rain set to fall at Twickenham, I just feel the powerful Springboks may edge it by 5 on Saturday!

The teams:

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Date: Saturday 24 November
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (16:30 SA time)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs SaleExeter vs Sale Preview
Bath vs WorcesterBath vs Worcester Preview
Wasps vs GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Preview
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Preview
Newcastle vs SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Preview
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Preview
Connacht vs MunsterConnacht vs Munster Preview
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Preview
Newport Gwent D'gons vs OspreysNewport Gwent D
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Preview
Waratahs vs BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Preview
Sharks vs CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Preview
Stormers vs LionsStormers vs Lions Preview
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers2064
4Bath1959
5Harlequins2058