New look Boks out to tame fresh-faced England
June 8, 2012
Jean de Villiers will captain the Springboks against England on Saturday © Getty Images
England travel to Durban on Saturday in the first of three Tests with the Springboks.
It is a leap into the unknown for Stuart Lancaster's side with many of them playing a Test match in South Africa for the first time. They performed well during the 2012 Six Nations, finishing second and losing to eventual Grand Slam winners Wales, but the honeymoon period is now over for Lancaster and the focus has switched to the 2015 World Cup and the draw before the end of the year. IRB rankings play a key part in the seedings and Lancaster's side need to come away with at least one win out of the three Tests to boost their hopes of avoiding the big southern hemisphere trio on their home turf come 2015.
For South Africa, they are in a similar position to Lancaster's side. They too have a new coach following the 2011 World Cup and Heyneke Meyer is under pressure to bring back the glory days to the shores of South Africa. Both sides feature a host of fresh faces but in the cauldron of Kings Park, the Boks will hope the crowd can make the difference come game day.
Key Player - South Africa: Scrum-half-come-wing Francois Hougaard is one of the world's most exciting half-backs to watch when his side is going forward, but question marks still surround his ability to control a match in a closely fought contest. If South Africa get go-forward then expect him to be at the forefront of their charge.
Team News - South Africa: Heyneke Meyer hands out three new caps with Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger all starting. Zane Kirchener gets the nod at fullback with Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen on the wing. Frans Steyn partners captain Jean de Villiers in the centres with Morne Steyn and Hougaard at half-back. Tendai Mtawarira starts at loose-head with the du Plessis brothers alongside him. Etzebeth and Kruger are the second-row with Willem Alberts, Coetzee and Pierre Spies the chosen back-row.
Key Player - England: Tom Johnson gets the nod at blindside in his first Test cap for England. The flanker has been one of the most consistent players in the Aviva Premiership over the past two seasons but this is a huge step up for the Exeter Chiefs man.
Team News - England: Mike Brown starts at fullback with Ben Foden and Chris Ashton on the wings. Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi start in the centres with Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs at half-back. Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole form the front-row with Mouritz Botha and Geoff Parling in the second-row. Chris Robshaw skippers the side at openside with Ben Morgan and Johnson completing the back-row. Injury-doubt Toby Flood is on the bench and Jonathan Joseph will make his Test debut if he gets the nod from the the replacements.
Key Battle: The Springboks will target Ben Foden on the left wing. Foden is inexperienced in this position and South Africa are likely to pepper him with high balls and get the likes of JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana to charge at him all day long.
Trivia: Jean de Villiers is South Africa's 54th Springbok captain. With 72 Test caps he is the most experienced player in the history of Springbok rugby to be appointed as captain
Stats: This is the first time England have played South Africa in Durban but on the previous occasions they have played the Boks on their home turf, the Springboks have won seven games compared to England's three.
"Eben, Juandre, Marcell and Coenie have all put up their hands this season and I know they can succeed at Test level." Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer talks about the debutants
"By moving Ben to the wing we retain his strike power and aerial skills and can utilise not only Mike's attacking and defensive assets, but we can also call on his left-footed kicking game. Selection is competitive in lots of positions, particularly at scrum-half. We are really pleased with Ben's form and he knows our systems well." England coach Stuart Lancaster
Prediction: It'll be a huge ask for England to come away from Durban with the win but if they can tame Kings Park then they might just shock the hosts with a memorable victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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