Putting clinical on the pedestal

Gary Gold says the Springboks are determined to better their limp showings in Cardiff and Edinburgh but will not underestimate a potentially dangerous England side.

The hosts were underdogs at the beginning of the week and the latest news that scrumming cornerstone Andrew Sheridan is unavailable is another big blow to their chances. Despite lacklustre performances against Wales and Scotland, the Boks are expected to beat a young England side. Gold, however, told keo.co.za there’s no room for complacency – especially at Twickenham.

“We should be aiming to exploit a young England team, but we can’t be arrogant in thinking we can just pitch up and exploit a young England team,” Gold said. “If we take them lightly, we’re in trouble.

“Saturday is about concentrating on our own strengths and being clinical and accurate in our approach. But if we don’t watch players like Danny Care or Danny Cipriani closely, we could be in trouble.”

Gold seemed confident about South Africa’s chances but it was clear that he has lost no respect for the English pack. Sheridan’s injury could see England struggling to dominate at the scrums, and after a poor showing against Australia, the Boks should be confident. But Gold talked up Sheridan’s replacement Tim Payne and also said not much can be read into the scrumming performance against the Wallabies.

“Tim Payne is a seasoned campaigner who’s established himself as a good loosehead. The England scrum may actually be more solid with Payne starting at Twickenham. I have mixed feelings about the news that Sheridan’s not playing this weekend,” said Gold.

“I’ve always thought of Australia as a weird phenomenon in the scrums. They employ cunning tactics like not taking the hit and winning the free-kick. To put it diplomatically, they always have a few tricks up their sleeve.

“So I’m very careful about judging an opponent by how they’ve fared against Australia. Australia often have a smarter pack when they have a weaker pack.”

The Bok forwards coach said Jannie du Plessis has quickly settled at tighthead given his existing combination with Beast Mtawarira and John Smit at the Sharks. What did have Gold worried was the breakdown, an area that has been inconsistent in 2008. The subjective way the game is officiated is also a point of contention, and the referee Nigel Owens should play a big part this weekend.

“I’m very nervous about the breakdown this Saturday. England have two very good players on the floor and it’s going to be really tough for us in this department. The breakdown’s been a bit of a lottery for us this year.”

Gold lamented the injuries of both Juan Smith and Fourie du Preez, two players who would have played crucial roles in a Test against England. This Saturday’s meeting will be very different to the previous encounter in Paris with England under a new management team who embrace a different rugby philosophy.

“England are definitely more attack-minded at the moment,” said Gold. “Under Clive Woodward and Andy Robinson they were far more conservative. This Saturday they’ll come to Twickenham with the intent to play rugby and they will be very dangerous.

“They’re already a formidable team but I feel they’ll get better with experience. Cipriani is a very talented player that I first saw coming through the academy and I was with London Irish when we signed Riki Flutey. I’ve also coached Dylan Hartley and Paul Sackey, so I know what we’re up against.

“I also think they have a fantastic manager in Johno [Martin Johnson] who is surrounded by some good coaches. They won’t come right over night – at least I hope they don’t – but it looks to be a healthy working environment.”

A win at Twickenham will allow the Boks to complete a clean sweep of Wales, Scotland and England, and it will also provide them with significant psychological currency ahead of the British & Irish Lions series in 2009.

“It’s a very important game for us. We’ve struggled at Twickenham over the years and so to win here will give this group plenty of confidence heading into the Lions series.

“Saturday is about a good performance. We let ourselves down in the last two matches, and Saturday is about going out there and rounding off the season with a win, but to produce a good performance would be the cherry on top.”