Preview: South Africa v England

Date published: June 14 2018

A huge encounter awaits in Bloemfontein on Saturday as South Africa and England go into battle for the second time in this three-Test tour.

The Springboks will be looking to claim a morale-boosting series victory over the 2016 and ‘17 Six Nations champions, while the visitors are hoping to take matters into the final game.

It was a thrilling opening match of the tour with the Red Rose playing some outstanding rugby in the first 20 minutes, only for Rassie Erasmus’ men to produce a superb comeback. The southern hemisphere outfit ended up claiming a 42-39 triumph over Eddie Jones’ charges in what was an ideal start for captain and flanker Siya Kolisi.

Kolisi was part of a forward pack which dominated the collisions, allowing Faf de Klerk to dictate proceedings and find space in both the inside and outside channels.

England were all over the place defensively and no doubt much of their discussions this week will have centred around slowing down the South African ball. Both rearguards were poor but Jones would have been disappointed by how easily the Springboks made it over the gainline.

Despite youngster Tom Curry’s best efforts, who was the Red Rose’s best forward in the first Test, the tourists were comfortably beaten in the physical exchanges. Nick Isiekwe and Chris Robshaw have duly been dropped from the squad completely, meaning that Joe Launchbury returns after recovering from injury and Brad Shields starts his first match for the country.

Mark Wilson and Danny Cipriani are also named in the 23 as Jones attempts to rectify the issues which encompassed their performance last weekend.

Erasmus has made changes too, bringing in Frans Malherbe to replace the rested Wilco Louw, who has had a demanding Super Rugby schedule, while Pieter-Steph du Toit comes in for Jean-Luc du Preez at flanker.

They will feature alongside Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira in the pack, who will make his 100th appearance for South Africa. The 32-year-old continues to produce excellent performances and he was part of a forward unit that were too powerful for their opponents in the first Test.

The Springboks will look for a repeat of that effort, but the visitors should theoretically be better this weekend. Having already played one game at altitude, England will be a bit more acclimatised after struggling with the tempo the hosts played at.

However, despite the alterations the visitors have made, which should see a stronger display, the home side are a far more confident and energised squad. Following that victory a week ago, the South African public have re-engaged with the team so, if England are to take it to Cape Town, they will have to produce an exceptional performance.

Players to watch

For South Africa: While much of the focus is rightly on Tendai Mtawarira in his 100th Test, the onus will be on Frans Malherbe to hold up his side of the scrum. The set-piece went well last week with Wilco Louw and then Thomas du Toit anchoring the front-row, but the 27-year-old has been selected to start ahead of those two. Du Toit was particularly outstanding when he came on to the field but Malherbe is the man named in the starting XV, despite only recently returning from injury.

For England: In for his first start in place of the discarded Chris Robshaw, it will be interesting to see how Brad Shields fares. The New Zealand-born flanker came on at lock for the unfortunate Nick Isiekwe in the first Test and did reasonably well. He was more effective in clearing out at the breakdown and South Africa’s ball was slightly slower with him on the field, but England will need more from the 27-year-old this weekend.

Head-to-head: Two Wasps team-mates endured contrasting fortunes in the opening Test, with Willie le Roux starring and Elliot Daly making some poor mistakes. Their battle will once again be crucial and England will look for better from their full-back, whose error led to Sbu Nkosi’s first try, while two kicks were overcooked. For Le Roux, it is a case of more of the same after an impressive return to the Springbok jersey where he scored a try and was a constant threat in attack.

Previous results:

2018: South Africa won 42-39 in Johannesburg
2016: England won 37-21 in London
2014: South Africa won 31-28 in London
2012: South Africa won 16-15 in London
2012: South Africa and England drew 14-14 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

Prediction: It will be a case of who can improve their defence in time for the game and we think the hosts will be far more assured this weekend. South Africa by nine.

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’busiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Warrick Gelant

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Mike Brown, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Denny Solomona

Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)


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