Given the frosty reception, literally, the two teams will receive at Twickenham on Saturday, don’t expect anything other than a brutal arm wrestle between England and South Africa.
Jan de Koning – Rugby365
The conditions – snow and sleet at various intervals during the day – will ensure any chance of an expansive approach goes out the window well before kick-off.
There may well be the occasional dash by a backline player, but this contest will be mainly fought between the two gargantuan packs.
England have not been shy to talk up the need for physicality against a South African team with a reputation for a bit of niggle.
The English are also not buying into the suggestion that the Boks are vulnerable – following last week’s loss to Scotland, after some sneaky wins against Ireland and Wales.
England No.8 Nick Easter suggested that the Boks may well pose a bigger threat than the Wallabies did a fortnight ago and said England must raise the level of their performance against South Africa on Saturday.
The Harlequins loose forward, who has been on the losing side against the Boks in the 2007 World Cup Final in Paris and the record 6-42 defeat at Twickenham two years ago, said it is important that England build on the momentum from the performances against New Zealand, Australia and Samoa.
“We’re looking forward to finishing the year-end series on a high,” Easter told the RFU Podcast.
He said facing the Boks is the ideal Test to finish the year off with.
“They’ll be physical and skilful, but it’s all about momentum for us,” Easter said, adding: “You don’t want to take a step back from where we have been progressing. We’ve got to kick on and maintain the belief and trust we have in the way we’re playing.”
He dismissed the Boks’ poor showing in their loss to Scotland last week, saying there is never a lack of motivation or intensity when South African and England go head-to-head.
“England versus South Africa – it doesn’t matter how bad either team has played, it will always have that extra edge.
“”t will be a full-blooded affair. They will want to right that wrong,” he said of the Boks’ defeat last week.
Lock Simon Shaw, who was a member of the British and Irish Lions squad that slugged it out with the Boks in a brutal series in South Africa last year, also spoke of the need to front up to the visitors.
“South Africa will be more of a physical challenge than any other,” Shaw said of England’s November Tests.
“It is always the same challenge with SA – that is what their game is build on … big packs.
“We’ll have to match them in that area.”
He also felt the Boks will “come back even harder” after last week’s loss.
“Clearly Scotland didn’t do us any favours,” Shaw said.
The South African camp spoke all week of the need to atone for the dire performance they produced against the Scots in Edinburgh last week.
Bok No.8 8 Pierre Spies admitted the Boks face a very different England team this weekend.
“”We’re under pressure to redeem ourselves after the loss [to Scotland],” Spies said, adding that the Boks are determined to play to their abilities.
However, England pose very different, and also much bigger, threats that Scotland.
Spies said England have made huge strides in the last two years.
“They are certainly playing with more width in their game,” Spies said, adding: “But we still want to play our game and execute well.
“They will be bringing it [the game] to us the whole day and it will be a great challenge to us.”
South African captain Victor Matfield admitted that his team will have to dominate the collisions on Saturday.
“It is going to be tough,” Matfield said, adding: “They play a great style of rugby and keep the ball in hand and they have a lot of width on their game as well.”
Players to watch:
For England: You will look to see if wing Chris Ashton can reproduce the magical try-scoring ability that saw him ran the length of the field against the Wallabies. At flyhalf Toby Flood will play a crucial rile and the service of nippy scrumhalf Ben Youngs will also be key. The loose trio of Nick Easter, captain Lewis Moody and Tom Croft will be crucial in the testing conditions.
For South Africa: The Bok backs have failed miserably on this tour and they will all be under the spotlight. However, rookie Lwazi Mvovo will have to be at his best on defence to contain Chris Ashton. Flyhalf Morné Steyn and scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar also owe their teammates a big game after some ordinary performances in the last few weeks. Captain Victor Matfield’s line-outs will be under scrutiny, as will hooker Bismarck du Plessis’s throwing.
Head to head: In any crunch game you look at the halfbacks as the key components - Toby Flood and Ben Youngs (England) versus Morné Steyn and Ruan Pienaar (South Africa). Then Nick Easter (England) against Pierre Spies (South Africa) could also make for an intriguing battle. But the war will be won in the tight forwards. There is the line-out battle - England’s Tom Palmer and Courtney Lawes against Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha for South Africa - to go with the scrum showdown: Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Andrew Sheridan (England) versus Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira.
2008: South Africa win 42-6, London
2007: South Africa won 15-6, Paris (World Cup Final)
2007: South Africa won 36-0, Paris (World Cup pool match)
2007: South Africa won 55-22, Pretoria
2007: South Africa won 58-10, Bloemfontein
2006: South Africa won 25-14, London
2006: England won 23-21, London
2004: England won 32-16, London
2003: England won 25-6, Perth (World Cup pool match)
2002: England won 53-3, London
2001: England won 29-9, London
2000: England won 25-17, London
rugby365.com Prediction: The bookmakers are giving South Africa a lousy six-point start. It may well be that they feel the conditions will level the playing field. Certainly on current form South Africa are rank outsiders. But then again, the Springboks have always been best with their backs against the wall. They will be dangerous and if they can maintain their drive, desire and focus for the full 80 minutes – something they have not done on this tour – they may well edge the English. The Bok pack do pose a major threat, and man-for-man they may well be better. It is in the backline where the Boks have lacked direction. The absence of an alternative to their ‘kick-and-hope’ approach is what has cost them so dearly in this tour. We feel England will be just too slick and win by 10 points.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 David Wilson, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Hendre Fourie, 20 Danny Care, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Matt Banahan.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 François Hougaard, 21 Patrick Lambie, 22 Adi Jacobs.
Date: Saturday, November 27
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT – 16.30 SA time)
Expected weather: Very cold with wintry showers, which will lead to further accumulations of snow. High of 2°C and by kick-off it will be a chilly -1°C – although the windchill factor will take it down to at least -4°C.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Simon Mcdowell (Ireland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)