Lancaster in search of Bok bounce

2014-11-14 07:39
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

Twickenham - England coach Stuart Lancaster needs a victory over South Africa like never before when the teams meet at Twickenham on Saturday less than a year out from the World Cup.

It's not just that Lancaster's England have yet to beat the Springboks in four attempts - no England side has done so in 11 matches dating back to 2006 - but rather their poor combined record against the southern hemisphere 'big three' of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia that is the concern.

Last week's 24-21 defeat by the world champion All Blacks meant that in 12 matches against the southern hemisphere giants since Lancaster took charge in 2012, England have won just two.

If England, the 2015 World Cup hosts, are to make a serious challenge to win the Webb Ellis Trophy the chances are they will have to beat at least two of the 'big three' on successive weekends.

Doubts still remains about England's best combinations, the quality of their kicking game and captain Chris Robshaw's decision-making skills under pressure as exemplified when the flanker opted for a series of lengthy scrums towards the end of the All Blacks match -- the hosts got their penalty try but left themselves no time for a clinching score.

Lancaster has kept faith with the team that played last weekend, making one enforced change in handing a first Test start to wing Anthony Watson in place of injured Bath team-mate Semesa Rokoduguni.

"I know the players are looking forward to the challenge," said Lancaster. "South Africa have quality and experience across the park and it will be a big test for us.

"It's a long selection process. We have got 11 games (before the World Cup). These games are about finding out who can and can't deliver and we'll see how this week goes," added Lancaster, whose side complete their November programme at home to Samoa and Australia.

But while South Africa recently ended New Zealand's near two-year unbeaten run, they too come into this match on the back of a defeat following a 29-15 loss to Ireland in Dublin that left Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer feeling "ashamed".

Meyer has made five changes to the starting XV but retained the same matchday 23 that played last weekend and significantly dropped both half-backs Francois Hougaard and fly-half Handre Pollard to the bench.

Wing JP Pietersen, fly-half Pat Lambie, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, flanker Schalk Burger and hooker Adriaan Strauss have all been promoted to the starting XV.

The Springboks' pack remains formidable while their attacking threat has been sharpened by the form of fullback and IRB World Player of the Year nominee Willie le Roux.

South Africa will hope Lambie can give them better field-management while Meyer, who once coached English giants Leicester, won't be disappointed if rain lashes down upon Twickenham as it did last Saturday.

"The main thing which I don't think we've been good at as a team is playing in wet conditions. We don't face it too often in South Africa," he said.

"We have time to fix it before the World Cup. It's totally different: more arm-wrestle, more physical at the breakdown, you have to be very good in defence"

Meyer added: "Northern hemisphere games are normally within three to five points so you have to look at your own game. I wasn't happy with the silly penalties we gave away (against Ireland) so we have to be much more disciplined. Six points is the difference between winning and losing.

"It's about how we keep the ball, it's about how we make decisions in the right areas."

The same is equally true for England.


15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Dave Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler

Substitues: 16 Robert Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Marland Yarde

South Africa:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Cornal Hendricks

Read more on:    springboks  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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