Brad Barritt says nullifying Frans Steyn will require a collective effort not an individual one.
The Springboks have made no secret about their intention to attack England’s 10-12 axis of Owen Farrell and Barritt, with key strike runners – the most prominent back in that group being Steyn – set to test their defensive resolve.
Much of the Springboks’ success will rest on how Steyn fares in this primary role, but Barritt, a team-mate of Steyn’s at the Sharks before he opted to continue his career in England in late 2008, doesn’t feel burdened by the challenge at hand. It is a weight he says will be shared.
‘If they want to give away their tactics that’s their prerogative,’ Barritt said. ‘Gainline dominance is obviously important to the way they want to play. Ultimately it will be a collective effort in stopping [Steyn]. If their forwards can’t get front foot ball it is going to make it a hard day [for Steyn].
‘But really we’ve been focusing on ourselves and not too concerned about what they will do. We’ll try to impose ourselves on them by holding on to possession.’
England of course have a notable wrecking ball of their own in Manu Tuilagi, who impressed in the Six Nations and who is equally adept at physically dominating his opponents as he is at dazzling with his quick feet, good hands and appreciable ball skills.
If England manage to boss the gainline and, particularly, the set pieces, against a Springbok side that will be big on defensive aggression but still seeking synergy under new structures, Tuilagi will have opportunities to isolate his counterpart Jean de Villiers, who has had limited experience at outside centre. Barritt experienced the same positional shift during the Six Nations and explained the biggest challenges De Villiers will encounter.
‘Defensively there is a a different feel about it. You have to react more instinctively because you don’t have that protection on the inside. He is very experienced and I’m sure he’ll adapt,’ he said. ‘On attack you need to be the team’s width and show that you are a running threat. Ultimately playing 12 open your eyes to what is available outside of you.’
England haven’t won in South Africa in 12 years and Barritt conceded that they were underdogs once more. However, he pointed to them defying expectations previously and says they are determined to do this once more. ‘We aren’t daunted by that tag. That was the tag for most of the Six Nations [England lost just one game].’
By Ryan Vrede, in Durban