England look to heap woe on Boks
November 26, 2010
Will England manager Martin Johnson see his side take another step forward against the Springboks on Saturday? © Getty Images
England will look to bring the curtain down on an impressive autumn campaign with victory over South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
Martin Johnson's side have two victories to their name this month thanks to a demolition of Australia and a hard-fought win against Samoa plus a commendable display in defeat to the All Blacks. As a result England look well-placed to end a run of six international defeats against the Springboks and avenge their 42-6 at Twickenham in 2008.
The picture is not so rosy for the tourists who slumped to defeat against Scotland last time out and have been forced to weather injuries and drug test drama in the last few weeks. Tour victories over Ireland and Wales threatened to add some much-needed gloss on a largely dire year for the Boks but the pressure on coach Peter de Villiers has intensified ahead of what could be a defining clash.
England - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Ben Youngs was the catalyst for the victory over Australia but was largely shackled by Samoa last weekend. Can the 21-year-old rediscover his spark against the Boks?
England - Team News: Openside Lewis Moody returns to the team and reclaims the captaincy with blindside Tom Croft, tight-head Dan Cole and outside centre Mike Tindall also back in the line-up having sat out last weekend's victory over Samoa. Moody and Croft take over from Hendre Fourie and James Haskell in the back-row, Cole replaces David Wilson in the front-row and Tindall is in for Matt Banahan in the No.13 shirt. Fourie, Wilson and Banahan are on the bench where Wasps lock Simon Shaw also returns in the place of Gloucester's Dave Attwood. As a result England will field the same starting XV that memorably swept Australia aside 35-18 earlier this month.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Flanker Juan Smith is a class act and has been in try-scoring form of late but it's his defensive qualities that will no doubt come under scrutiny against an England side determined to run the ball. Can he cut down runners for 80 minutes?
South Africa - Team News: Bulls No.8 Pierre Spies has been recalled ahead of Ryan Kankowski and will link up with Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who replaces Francois Hougaard. Tendai Mtawarira has been named at loose-head despite earlier fears that a knee injury would rule him out of contention.
Key Battle: England's dynamic pack have played their part in a high-tempo approach but they are set to face a formidable challenge in the form of the Springboks who know their strengths and will look to outmuscle their rivals on the gain line. Expect fireworks up front before any backs get the chance to add some sparkle.
Trivia: Former Springboks fly-half Jannie de Beer holds the record for most points in a single game between the two sides thanks to his 34-point haul - including five drop goals - during their clash at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Stats: England winger Mark Cueto has not scored a try in his last 16 Test appearances but has scored three in four appearances against the Boks.
"It is balls-out from the start to the end. If you are smart, accurate and disciplined then you have a chance to win. That is what we need to get to. It is going to be a big, big game. It is a cracking game to be involved in whenever you play South Africa. You know what you are going to get in terms of intensity." - England manager Martin Johnson
"Martin has made England a world force again. It is a hell of a worrying factor for us, especially with the World Cup so close, that they are gelling as a team." Springboks boss Peter de Villiers
Prediction: Few would have backed England to claim three wins out of four during this month's feast of international rugby but here they are on the verge of that notable achievement. Full of confidence and full of running they should weather a Springboks assault before putting them to the sword but they will have to work hard for every inch.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin