Bok Test: Heavies clash at 12?

2012-06-12 13:34
Frans Steyn (Gallo)
Cape Town – Springbok captain Jean de Villiers may just get a well-deserved “break” when his team meets England in the second Test at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.

No, that doesn’t mean the popular Stormers midfielder will be sitting out the encounter, which could see the Boks secure an early series triumph.

But there is just the possibility that he will not come face to face quite as often in this game against England’s wrecking ball at outside centre, Manu Tuilagi.

One of the steps England are considering, following South African-born Brad Barritt’s injury-enforced unavailability in Johannesburg, is moving Tuilagi, who operated at No 13 in the Durban Test, closer to the heavier traffic on the Highveld.

“Clearly moving Manu (to inside centre) is an option,” England coach Stuart Lancaster was quoted as saying on Monday. “We’ll have to find a new partnership.”

Samoan-born Tuilagi may be only 21 but he already tips the scales at an impressive 110kg and, at Mr Price Kings Park, had some genuinely “big” moments both on attack and defence – in one instance unceremoniously stopping Pierre Spies on a rampage for the try-line and also making a couple of spirited attempts to “bounce” opposite number De Villiers.

It was to De Villiers’ credit, in a gutsy and constructive showing generally by the new Bok captain, that he was always seemed to manage to cling to some part of Tuilagi’s challenging physique and arrest his ball-in-hand charges.

Now some relief may come for him, in a sense, if the Leicester Tigers-based freight train is shifted inside: and it would put Tuilagi enticingly head to head with someone who is very much his bodily equal: Frans Steyn.

The returning Sharks utility back put in just as rugged a showing as Tuilagi in Durban, and at roughly the same weight and a bit taller at 1.91m, would hardly wince at such a challenge.

Steyn also has an appreciable edge (as does De Villiers, of course) in experience: while still only recently turned 25, he is closing in on 50 caps for his country; the first Test stretched his tally to 48.

With both players happy to take the ball into contact situations, a veritable battle of the bulldozers could take place on Saturday if Tuilagi does make the jersey swap ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing



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