Stuart Lancaster says in the absence of footage of a Heyneke Meyer-coached Springbok side they have been forced to review Bulls matches and garner information from within his own squad.
The Springboks have only four days to prepare for the first Test against England in Durban on Saturday, which is clearly a significant obstacle. However, their advantage stems from England’s limited analysis material, whilst Meyer and technical analyst Rassie Erasmus have a wealth of information from England’s Six Nations campaign on which to build their challenge.
Lancaster acknowledged that it was a disadvantage but explained that there are avenues they have explored in order to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
‘You go back through previous teams that he coached, he has a long association with the Bulls, and he also spent seven months at Leicester. We have six or seven players who’ve worked under him and given us insight into him as a person as coach,’ Lancaster said. ‘The beauty of this tour is that we play each other three times in three weeks so we are going to know each other inside out at the end. It’s more about who learns quickly during the game and who adapts to the match situation.
‘South Africa would have had a good chance to have a look at us during the Six Nations, while their last game was the World Cup quarter-final in 2011. So that’s a clear advantage. But again it’s about adapting quickly, especially in the first Test because come Sunday both sides will have a clearer idea of the other’s strengths and limitations.’
Lancaster also explained that the experience and familiarity of the Springboks’ senior players will soften the impact of an inadequate build up.
‘The Springboks have had limited preparation for this series, but they have a core of players who played not only in the World Cup but prior to that as well. There will be a common understanding and philosophy. South Africa are a difficult side at home, irrespective of their preparation time.’
England last won in South Africa 12 years ago. It signalled the start of a golden era which culminated in them winning the World Cup in 2003. Asked whether this was their best opportunity since that last victory to return with the Bok scalp, Lancaster offered: ‘I tend not to look back, but rather forward to where we want to go.
‘This is undoubtedly a huge opportunity to test ourselves against high quality opposition in their own back yard. A tour doesn’t get any tougher than facing South Africa in South Africa, as the British & Irish Lions found out in 2009.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Durban