England assistant coach Mike Catt has warned his team to expect a ‘brutal tour’ during the June Test series in South Africa.
Catt, who was born in Port Elizabeth before relocating to Bath, traveled to South Africa with England in 1994 and 2000. The former fullback revealed that those were two of the toughest tours he experienced during his playing career, and told his charges to be braced for a tough physical and mental challenge when they take on the Springboks during the three-Test series.
He also warned South African-born centre Brad Barritt and lock Mouritz Botha to expect abuse from their former home nation.
‘You can’t prepare for it. You have to feel it,’ Catt told espnscrum.com. ‘[Head coach] Stuart Lancaster has been sending emails for the past three or four months saying “prepare yourself, prepare yourself, prepare yourself”.
‘Brad Barritt did a presentation for us in connection with what to expect from the country and what to expect from the people – but when it comes onto the pitch it is fierce, it is brutal.
‘I remember us going down in 2000 and we played the first Test and then we couldn’t train until the Thursday because we were so physically battered by it. These guys are going to have to be mentally tough and I think the environment we have created at the moment is going to put us into good stead.’
Catt believes success during the tour in South Africa will build vital confidence heading into the 2015 World Cup, which will be hosted in England.
‘It is a brilliant place to go and a very welcoming place but very, very hostile environment when you do get into the rugby circles. But there is nothing better than beating them,’ Catt said.
‘Winning there was one of the major highlights of my career, knowing what it means to the country and to the people. When we went there in 2000 with Clive Woodward we lost the first Test, which we should have won, and then won the second Test.
‘That tour was a massive stepping stone to the success we had at the World Cup. To go down to South Africa and beat them there was a massive confidence boost for us. With the culture and everything that Stuart has there, we now need to take it another level and build it up to the 2015 World Cup.’