Spies searches for redemption

South African loose forward Pierre Spies will lead the battle on the ground at Twickenham, as the Springboks search for parity after the disappointment in Dublin.

His days as a wing may be over, but Spies has been shuffled around the Bok back row on a matchly basis. In his short five match career, he has flanked both sides of the scrum and packed down at No 8 twice. Saturday’s game against England will be the fifth time he wears a different number on his back in consecutive weeks, and the third time he plays openside.

The 21 year old is grounded enough to realise that he still has much to do in establishing himself as a force on the international scene. In a struggling side, it may not be the best thing for Jake White to do; changing Spies’s role every game. But the youngster has shrugged off this argument, as he believes a loose forward should be able to cope with these adjustments.

“You need to be good enough to cover all three positions.” he told keo.co.za. “However, you need to mature into the role of No 8 at this level. It takes a bit of time.”

Spies was shown to be lacking this experience last week against Ireland. Although his cover defence was commendable, there were a couple of instances where he was brushed aside like a schoolboy as the Irish forwards perpetually hammered their Bok counterparts from the base of the rucks.

This weekend, the Boks will boast an all-Bulls back row as they look to outmuscle the English in the traditional northern hemisphere forward barney. Spies will wear the No 6 shirt, which prescribes doing the bulk of the work at the breakdown in terms of securing possession.

“They are a very forward-orientated team and we need to step up from our disappointing effort against Ireland last week,” said Spies. “We can’t do much about that loss now, but we do feel that we let ourselves and our country down.

“I have played with Danie [Rossouw] and Jacques [Cronje] for the Blue Bulls, and it will help to have that greater degree of understanding. Having Hilton [Lobberts] on the bench will also benefit the back row, as we have played with him before in the Currie Cup.”

The English have also made a few positional switches in their back row, with captain Martin Corry moving to eight and Pat Sanderson to the openside. Joe Worsely occupies the vacant spot on the blindside, with Lewis Moody dropping to the bench.

SPIES IN TESTS

vs Australia in Brisbane: No 8
vs New Zealand in Pretoria: Blindside
vs New Zealand in Rustenburg: Openside
vs Australia in Johannesburg: Openside
vs Ireland in Dublin: No 8
vs England in London: Openside (to be played on Saturday)

By Jon Cardinelli, in London