PREVIEW: Ahead of Saturday’s big clash at Twickenham, Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber described England as a team that just “doesn’t go away”.
Nienaber was speaking about England’s fightback against New Zealand last weekend.
Eddie Jones’ side were 19 points down before they staged a comeback with three tries in the closing stages to finish a dramatic match all square at 25-25.
“England is a quality side. They are well-coached,” said Nienaber.
“I know people will focus on the Argentina result, but if you look at the result against New Zealand then they are a team that doesn’t go away.
“I think they got themselves back into the game with less than eight minutes to go.
“Even if you look at the results that went against them – the Australia result [in July] and the Argentina result – those games were close and a decision here or there or an opportunity taken here or there could have changed the result.
“I think they are a quality side and there has been a lot of development in their game.
“It’s going to be a nice challenge for us and we are looking forward to it.”
The preview continues below…
— Springboks (@Springboks) November 23, 2022
Will the real England please stand up?
One intrigue at Twickenham will be discovering which England shows up against South Africa.
The England that threw caution to the wind and torped New Zealand by 19 points in seven minutes to force a draw?
Or the England that had the All Blacks on a plate, a man advantage and possession and kicked the ball out to settle for a draw?
England closed ranks in support of game-ender Marcus Smith but the flyhalf had his detractors home and away and was booed by some in the crowd last weekend.
But it is not in England’s DNA to gamble, or think on their feet. Which made coach Eddie Jones ‘praise of Smith for finally showing his aggressive nature of him a touch ironic.
Smith has too infrequently brought the magic he creates for club-side Harlequins to the international stage.
Some believe he is stifled from having to slot between captain Owen Farrell and scrumhalf Ben Youngs, two of England’s only three centurions.
It seemed Smith was emboldened at the end last Saturday by Farrell carrying a leg injury and Youngs, fresh off the bench, playing quick ruck ball like in the old days.
A perfect storm developed. New Zealand reached 25-6 with 10 minutes left and began thinking of a pleasant flight home. Then fullback Beauden Barrett was sin-binned, Smith launched England’s do-or-die charge, and the crowd found its voice.
But a brilliant finish should not shade how badly England were disarmed by the All Blacks for 70 minutes – the pack was outmuscled and outsmarted, and promising scrumhalf Jack van Poortvliet was exposed.
“We have an incredible amount of potential in this team, we just need to unlock it,” forward Maro Itoje said.
“We are becoming more cohesive, so hopefully it will come.
“I’m proud that we played some great rugby towards the end of that (New Zealand) game, but we need to play like that for the whole game.”
Meanwhile, England could also have some tricks up their sleeves with Matt Proudfoot being their forwards coach.
Proudfoot is a former Springbok assistant coach as and he was part of the coaching team that won the World Cup in 2019.
Springbok prop Thomas du Toit, who will be on the bench on Saturday, said while he may have some insight into the players, the Bok pack has evolved since 2019.
“It’s clearly an advantage that Matt has worked with some of the Springbok forwards before, but just as he knows a fair bit about us and what makes us tick, we know him.
“I think our forwards have developed and grown a lot in the last few years as well though, so it will be different to 2019,” said Du Toit.
Players to watch
For England: Eddie Jones has overhauled his front row. The experienced pair of prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George have replaced Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie in the starting XV, with England anticipating a huge challenge up front from the ever-physical world champion Springboks. Vunipola and George impressed off the bench as England staged a remarkable rally to come from 19 points behind late on in a 25-25 draw with New Zealand last weekend and are among four changes to head coach Jones’ run-on side. Meanwhile, Tommy Freeman has been selected for his first appearance since the tour of Australia in July, replacing Jack Nowell on the wing, while Alex Coles takes over from Sam Simmonds at blindside flank. There will also be a spotlight in the midfield. Powerful center Manu Tuilagi is set to make the 50th appearance of an injury-plagued England career that started in 2011, with midfield colleague Owen Farrell again captaining the team. Jack van Poortvliet, an international novice, has retained his place at scrumhalf despite struggling against the All Blacks, with Ben Youngs – England’s most-capped player – on the bench.
For South Africa: Evan Roos will start at No.8 with Jasper Wiese out of the mix. Roos has been a star for the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship, but his time on the field with the Springboks this year has been limited. It will be in the engine room where the Boks will look for an advantage over the English. Eben Etzebeth returns to the starting XV following last weekend’s 63-21 thumping of Italy to partner his old school teammate Marvin Orie at lock. Etzebeth has been one of the world’s top players this year and his physicality and aggression will be needed at Twickenham. In the backline, Makazole Mapimpi has been selected in the place of Cheslin Kolbe, who is not available, with the rest of the back three featuring fellow wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux at fullback. Mapimpi is a strong defender and expect him to do a lot of running under the high ball. Eyes will also be on flyhalf Damian Willemse and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk. They are continuing their budding partnership, but a lot of Bok fans were hoping to see Manie Libbok get a starting role in that No.10 jersey. He will be starting the match on the bench again.
Head to head
@rugby365com: South Africa by seven points.
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Alex Coles, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jack Nowell.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Canan Moodie.
At your place: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 17.30 (17.30 GMT; 19.30 SA Time)
Expected weather: Periods of rain are expected with a high of 13°C and a low of 11°C
Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland) & Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
@rugby365comAFP & AAP