Jean braces for flash Flood
15 Jun 2012
Jean de Villiers expects England flyhalf Toby Flood to pose the greatest attacking threat in Saturday’s Test at Ellis Park.
The Springbok skipper looked like a boxer rather than a rugby player when he addressed the media on Friday. De Villiers is currently sporting a shiner below his right eye and his face is puffier than usual, the result of a brutally physical bout with England at Kings Park last week.
The theme for the second Test shouldn’t differ too much from the first, with the more physically dominant side in the tackle set to emerge with the spoils. The forward battles will be fiercely contested but so too will the fracas in midfield, with two combative sets of centres selected.
De Villiers admitted that the Boks have spoken about containing the powerful Manu Tuilagi as well as the relatively unknown Jamie Joseph. They will also be wary of the new man starting at No 10 for England, as Flood is the type who can pose a threat both as an individual runner and as a distributor.
On Thursday, Flood mentioned that he and Tuilagi have enjoyed a good partnership at Leicester, and that this would be significant for England at Ellis Park. As a player who has faced Flood before and is aware of his game-breaking strengths, De Villiers singled out the England flyhalf as a player that would need to be repressed.
‘Experience counts for a helluva lot, and that’s why Toby will be an important player for them,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za. ‘There are some young guys on his outside that he will need to look after, but as an individual player he is definitely somebody we need to look at.
‘He has a great passing and kicking game. We have to make sure we don’t give him enough time and room to make good decisions.’
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has demanded that his charges lift their intensity and accuracy levels at ruck time. It is hoped that a sharper showing at the tackle will allow the Boks to build some pressure on the England pack, and that this pressure will be transferred onto the England halfback combination.
Meyer expects England to keep the ball in hand a lot more this week, but De Villiers said that the hosts would still be prepared for a more balanced approach. Again De Villiers singled out Flood’s kicking game as a strength and is mindful of the damage it can potentially inflict.
‘We have to be prepared for anything, whether they run or kick. We will have to adapt to whatever they do on the day.’
If the Boks succeed in winning the collisions and limiting the options of England halfbacks Ben Youngs and Flood, it will make their task in midfield far easier. Nevertheless, the battle-scarred De Villiers is expecting Tuilagi and Joseph to use their bulk and speed to full effect.
‘I don’t think it will matter whether he plays 12 or 13, Manu is a quality player. He won’t have as many one-on-one opportunities now that he’s closer to the action, but he’s a hard runner and we are going to have to keep an eye on him, because he’s difficult to stop once he gets going.
‘While I haven’t seen Joseph play, I have done an analysis. He’s another big guy and he seems to have the skill and the pace. It’s going to be another tough challenge.’
De Villiers said there was good reason for the Boks to feel more confident than before, as the extra week has afforded them further opportunity to gel as a combination.
Following a good week of training in Johannesburg, the captain expects the Boks to produce an improved performance.
‘We looked at the video [of the first Test] and it’s obvious that we need to improve at the rucks, on attack and even at the set phases. It definitely helps having spent another week together.
‘It was difficult at first, there were new players involved and new patterns that we needed to get used to. But there’s been a noticeable change this week, we’re playing more instinctively at training which for me suggests we are getting closer as a team.
‘A week in rugby is a helluva long time and I’ve felt that every time we’ve got together [for a training session] we’ve got a bit better as a unit.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg