Boks ready for England
London - Springbok forward coach Gary Gold thinks the Boks will be up for the challenge in the scrums in their Test against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The scrums are reportedly going to be an important focus in Saturday’s game, for they are one of few areas where England can trouble the Boks, and much is going to hinge on them causing problems for the Boks in the front-row.
Gold, however, believes the Boks will be up for the challenge and is clearly delighted that Jannie du Plessis has joined the starting team for Saturday’s game.
“It is a massive factor for us that Jannie, although he wasn’t part of the initial tour group, has played in a Currie Cup winning front-row together with John Smit and Beast Mtawirara. He has fitted in quite seamlessly this week. He is a good solid scrummager and a very professional player who is building up a lot of experience. I am happy with the way he has been absorbed into the scrum unit.”
What could be more problematic, and a potential vulnerability, is the link provided between forwards and backs by the loose-forward unit and halfbacks. Danie Rossouw’s selection to replace Juan Smith on the flank has added one more upright ball carrier to the mix, for Smith does play to the ball more.
Again Gold, although doing the obvious thing by saying that losing a player of Smith’s experience and ability will be felt, does not seem too concerned.
“We’re fortunate to have a player of Danie’s ability coming in, and he is a player who was part of the Bok team that won here in 2006, and at this stage I will take any bit of positive superstition I can get,” said Gold.
England do have some excellent fetchers in their back-row, so this is going to be a crucial area, and Gold admits he is nervous about the breakdowns, probably as much for the lottery provided by the unpredictable refereeing interpretations as for any weakness in his own team.
England’s hopes of recovering from last week's 28-14 defeat by Australia have been hit by the withdrawal of giant loosehead Andrew Sheridan through injury, leaving the team under strength against one of the most powerful scrummaging teams in world rugby.
England team manager Martin Johnson expects a tough forward contest.
If it is more orthodox, that should benefit his team.
Referring to last weekend’s match, Johnson said: "We didn't get that many scrums and when we did they ended up on the floor or in free kicks. We got delayed at times at key moments. The return for us was disappointed.
"We didn't have a platform for us to attack off, but I think you'll see a different scrum this week."
Johnson was aiming for a slightly different approach, having brought in James Haskell for Tom Croft at blindside flanker in his only planned change.
But Sheridan's failure to recover from a neck problem forced Johnson to draft in Tim Payne, leaving Phil Vickery at tighthead and Matt Stevens among the replacements.
With South Africa in possession of the World Cup and on a run of five straight wins over England - including last year's World Cup final - the hosts would seem to have the greater motivation.
Crucial world rankings points are at stake, along with a desire to prove that the loss to Australia was a one-off.
But the Springboks lost seven straight games to England before that winning run, and the likes of Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha have never won against England at Twickenham.
The desire to add that triumph to their already huge achievements could be key, with South Africa coach Peter de Villiers claiming his players are exhausted after an intense year of rugby.
"Physically they're trained to deal with it but there's a mental fatigue that nobody sees," De Villiers said. "They're thinking: 'five days more and then I can go back to my family.'
"Fatigue is taking its toll. I think for the sake of the players I'm so glad the year's done."
Conrad Jantjes, JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Ricky Januarie; Tendei Mtawarira, John Smit (captain), Jannie du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Danie Rossouw, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Heinrich Brussow, Francois Steyn, Jaque Fourie.
Delon Armitage, Paul Sackey, Jamie Noon, Riki Flutey, Ugo Monye, Danny Cipriani, Danny Care; Tim Payne, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Steve Borthwick (captain), Tom Palmer, James Haskell, Tom Rees, Nick Easter.
Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Matt Stevens, Simon Shaw, Tom Croft, Jordan Crane, Harry Ellis, Toby Flood.