Johannesburg - Even without the likes of Tendai Mtawarira, the Springboks are pinning their hopes on their pack to do the business in Saturday’s Test match against England at Twickenham.
The Boks might be without their beast, but their pack looks solid as it could be, with a tactical approach likely to set the trend for an important four match tour of the UK and France starting with this clash, according to SuperSport.com.
And Rassie Erasmus has left no doubt as to what his team want to do. As they did against the All Blacks in their last two clashes with the World Champions, it will be a tour de force of physicality and skill that will be asked to beat Eddie Jones’ side – to set the platform for the Boks with a dominant performance up front.
It won’t be easy. To play in front of 82 000 fans, and Jones knows the Boks all too well, with the Australian likely to have his own plan for the Bok downfall and will want to follow up the Cape Town win with another to boost his own side less than a year out from the World Cup.
But for Erasmus this test is possibly even more important than the performance at Loftus against the All Blacks. The momentum and goodwill the Boks built up from that game and the win in Wellington will easily be forgotten if they can’t turn it on at Twickenham, and with England likely to be one of the competitors in Japan at next year’s Rugby World Cup, a victory will take this team another step forward.
But it is also for the way the team gels up front. The first time that Duane Vermeulen has partnered with Warren Whiteley and Siya Kolisi in an all captaincy loose trio is mouthwatering – if it gels well.
The idea that the engine room has two more Bok captains in Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit – the latter arguably the best Bok this season by a country mile – will inspire some more confidence while Steven Kitshoff’s performances of late will give him an opportunity to cement the loosehead position in the absence of Beast.
All round Erasmus probably couldn’t have picked a stronger pack of forwards, while the test will come at the back, where the inexperienced back three will be targeted by England and peppered with high balls.
But then again, England found out to their own peril that the Bok counter-attack is deadly and will be waiting if they get it wrong. The pressure will be different and in the home team’s favour, but there is no question that if they stand up on defence, the talent in the back three can hurt any team in world rugby.
The Boks will rely heavily on the boot of Ivan van Zyl and Handre Pollard to ensure they get themselves in the right areas, and like at Loftus are likely to play a more conservative pattern against the English because of the heavier conditions.
Van Zyl has long been touted as an excellent box kicker and this will be tested on Saturday, but there will be some pressure on him to provide the same sort of exuberance that Faf de Klerk brought to the position.
Pollard is likely to get the Lions’ share of controlling the game, something that ran off De Klerk the entire year and should revel if he gets good ball.
“This match will be a huge tactical affair with much of the outcome depending on how you handle the set phases and kicking game," Erasmus confirmed at the team announcement
"England will be desperate to win this one at Twickenham.”
But it will all start up front. And the big pack has now been selected. Just how clinical they are, how they handle the pressure and if they can get the sort of dominance they need will provide a lot of answers about the outcome of this game.
And set the tone for the next four weeks.
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