Jean faces Eng 'mystery man'
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – For pure experience, it’s a no-contest in midfield for the second Test between South Africa and England at Coca-Cola Park here on Saturday.
The Springboks stick with the combination of captain Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn
, who boast 121 international caps between them, whilst the tourists, 1-0 down and seeking to stay alive in the series, employ a new pairing in Manu Tuilagi – the rugged Samoan-born combatant shifted infield to No 12 this time – and debutant Jonathan Joseph.
The England duo are novices in age terms, too: the 11-cap Tuilagi is 21 and his latest ally Joseph (given his chance almost certainly as a result of Brad Barritt’s injury in the Durban Test) was born a mere three days later than Tuilagi in May 1991.
At his captain’s media briefing on Friday, De Villiers admitted to Sport24 that “to be honest, I don’t know very much about (Joseph)”, his direct opponent on this occasion.
“I’ve obviously done some analysis on previous games he’s played but I haven’t seen too much of him at London Irish.
“I’m sure he’s a quality player and when he came on last Saturday he definitely made a difference – he’s also a pretty big guy and seems to have the skills and some pace as well so it will be another tough challenge for Frans
ie and I.
“I also think that with Toby Flood now at No 10 they’ve got some experience in that slot and he will look to lead that backline as a whole on Saturday.”
Asked whether Tuilagi moving to No 12 somehow represented a moral victory for the Boks, because it would simultaneously place him closer to the no-nonsense Bok pack, De Villiers gave a diplomatic response.
“Look, I think they’ve also changed their team partly due to injury, and he’s a class player whether he’s at 12 or 13.
“He’ll be running in the channel where the traffic will be a little (heavier). He won’t get as many one-on-one opportunities as he got last week, but he always runs hard and we’ll have to keep an eye on him.
“He will have the ball a bit more, and we’ll need to stop him.”
De Villiers becomes the most capped Bok player in the centre position on Saturday, his 59th appearance in the role even though the versatile Stormers man has 73 overall caps.
Partner Steyn, of course, is a bit of a lucky charm against these particular opponents as he has played in all eight consecutive wins against England in recent times.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing