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End Of The Year Tours: England v South Africa Preview
An almost full-strength Springbok squad will take on the English at Twickenham Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
The Springboks will be looking to turn an absolutely dreadful 2016 around when they take on a resurgent English side at 'Rugby HQ'. This will be easier said than done though as the English, under the guidance of Eddie Jones, have been in immaculate touch this term, claiming a Grand Slam on their way to winning the Six Nations and following that up with a 3-0 Series victory in Australia.
Can the Boks stop this rampant Roses side or will Eddie Jones’ tenure as England national coach continue to go from strength to strength?
England v South Africa | Saturday 12 November | Twickenham | 17:00
To Win (80 Mins)
England 1/6 | Draw 25/1 | South Africa 15/4
England (-11.5) 9/10 | South Africa (+11.5) 9/10
Eddie Jones is one of the most astute men to ever grace a coach’s box and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of getting another one over the Springboks. The former Wallaby mentor and Springbok consultant, was the architect behind Japan’s shock victory over the Springboks at last year’s World Cup.
Jones, who I assume spends at least 70 percent of his life doing video analysis, identified the Springboks immobile forwards as their greatest weakness. He instructed his Japanese charges not to overcommit at the breakdown and fan out on defense. When his side eventually turned over the ball, he instructed them to move it as quickly as possible thus stretching the South African defense.
While he is unlikely to take a similar approach to this weekend’s fixture, mainly due to his current side having a pack that is almost as heavyweight as the ‘Boks, you can bet your bottom dollar that Jones will have another ingenious strategy up his sleeve.
He may have actually shown his cards with fielding Wasps’ centre Elliot Daly. The young gun is a rather abrasive character but it’s his long-range kicking game that seems to have merited his elevation to the starting XV. The Wasps man has a monster of a boot on him and has nudged a few over the sticks from fifty-five meters plus. His siege gun of a left boot will compliment his right footed backline compatriots and will allow England to implement a tactical kicking game.
Daly is part of an interesting midfield combination that also includes Saracens kingpin, Owen Farrell. While the ‘Saries youngster is a fly-half by trade, Jones has used him at twelve for the majority of his tenure as England coach with Bath’s George Ford donning the number 10 jersey.
Jones has been forced to shuffle things around in the pack with both of his first choice locks unavailable. The new look second row sees old hands Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury reunited.
This game was always going to hinge on Allister Coetzee’s team selection. And in all honesty, I’m not at all confident after witnessing the announcement. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘Bok mentor has made some bold decisions but I feel the selection of the out of form Damian de Allende and the fielding of Piter-Steph du Toit on the flank may prove costly.
I fully understand that the ‘Bok mentor needs to field a physical side but it feels like he’s wasting a player by switching Du Toit to the side of the scrum and bringing Lood De Jaeger into to the second row. Look, Lood is a brilliant player but his 2016 form has been woeful. On top of this, England are missing two of their most athletic forwards with Maro Itoje and James Haskell both injured. With the aforementioned duo out, South Africa have a massive chance to turn over ball at the breakdown.
This is where I think Coetzee has made his first mistake. While I fully appreciate South Africa’s lack of a fit fetcher – Coetzee, Brussouw, and Roelof Smit are all injured – you have to feel that a bloke like Uzair Cassiem offers a bit more of a menace at the breakdown point.
Anyway, enough with the first issue of contention, let’s move on to the second bugbear; Damien de Allende. The Western Province centre has floundered this year and really looks in need of a few months break. After Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s display against the Barbarians – the Lions youngster carried the ball like a man possessed – one would have thought that Coetzee would have been inclined to continue with him and Francois Venter in the midfield, especially with England fielding a lightweight Owen Farrell at inside centre. While De Allende does offer a physical presence at 12, his inability to move the ball past his channel will allow Farrell’s outside defenders to kill the momentum.
The Stats That Matter
The last time England managed a win over the ‘Boks was back in November 2006 where they edged it 23-21 in front of a sold-out Twickenham. The Roses best result since then came in 2012 where they managed a 14-14 draw in Port Elizebeth.
While the above makes for fantastic reading for Springbok fans, there are some worrying statistics also doing the rounds. One of the darkest days in the history of rugby was thrust upon the ‘Boks by this weekend’s opponents. The ‘Boks 53-3 loss to the English back in 2002 is the day I’m referring to. The results was part of a sequence that saw South Africa seven straight games to the 'Poms with five of these defeats coming at this weekend’s venue.
Verdict: England (-11.5) 9/10
England are actually here for the taking. The absence of George Kruis, Maro Itoje and James Haskell has left their forward pack bereft of mobility. But Coetzee’s decision to field a heavyweight starting pack means that England won’t be as tested at the breakdown as they would have been against a more mobile trio. My money is on Owen Farell’s golden boot seeing England to a comfortable win.