Preview – Boks vs England (3rd Test)
22 Jun 2012
JON CARDINELLI analyses the key match-ups and picks the winner of the clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Wet weather is forecast for Saturday and slippery conditions will force a more conservative approach. Unfortunately for England, it will prevent them from playing the game at a more lively pace.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has spoken about accuracy at the breakdown, and it is the speed of the recycle as well as the space it creates that may cause the Bok defence problems. However, it will prove difficult to win clean ball at the rucks and play the game at pace when the rain is bucketing down.
The Boks will stick to their game plan regardless of the conditions. Their pack will be tasked with replicating last week’s first-half performance, where their dominance at the gainline resulted in terrific continuity, and they eventually proved impossible to resist.
Willem Alberts has been sidelined with injury, but there’s still sufficient grunt in the Bok pack to ensure that they set a platform. Bismarck du Plessis is an important player in this regard, as is Eben Etzebeth and Beast Mtawarira.
Jacques Potgieter has been given a task that borders on unfair in that he’s expected to replace Alberts as both a momentum-gatherer and a momentum-stopper. Lancaster has selected imposing ball carriers in Thomas Waldrom and Tom Palmer, and so a player like Potgieter is going to have his hands full on defence.
Both teams have been inconsistent at the set pieces, and there should be another close contest at the lineout and scrum. Everything comes down to the forwards’ performance at the tackle, however, as it will determine which team sets the platform needed to employ their respective game plans.
Morné Steyn has struggled with his goal-kicking in this series, but has played a decisive role with his line-kicking. Territory will be even more important than before, as wet weather typically contributes to a higher error rate. Both teams will avoid playing too much rugby in their own half for fear of conceding possession and handing the opposition opportunities.
It could blunt the attacking edge of Bok fullback Gio Aplon, and force him to concentrate on a neglected area of his game. He began his career with the Stormers as an attacking player who could also boot the ball prodigious distances. That underrated left foot will be needed this Saturday as Steyn looks for support as the Boks’ drive for territorial ascendancy.
While Steyn will look to kick for territory, he will also use the rain and wind to his advantage. England’s Alex Goode is starting his first match at fullback and so a series of garryowens is inevitable. The pressure on the youngster will be intensified when Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who are both in terrific form, chase the kick.
The Boks may have already won the series, but there’s still plenty to play for. This match will serve as the last opportunity to play as a unit before the Rugby Championship, and they will be determined to improve on what have been, to be brutally honest, patchy performances in Durban and Johannesburg.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has been forced to make three changes but has otherwise kept the starting side intact. Meanwhile, Lancaster has made forced changes as well as tactical ones.
The only England combination that remains in place following the Ellis Park defeat is the midfield of Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph. Lancaster hopes that the new selections will boost England’s physical effort, but I think that six changes could do more harm than good to a side searching for continuity.
JC’S CALL: Boks by 7
Springboks – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson.
England – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Paul Doran Jones, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Brad Barritt.