THERE is a theme of stability about Stuart Lancaster’s team as England prepare to take on South Africa at Twickenham tomorrow. Serving soldier Semesa Rokoduguni, who is side-lined through a hip injury, is the only starting change from last weekend. The Fijian-born flyer’s Bath colleague, Anthony Watson, wins his second cap and replaces him on the right wing.
Lancaster will be looking for a similar start to last weekend’s encounter against New Zealand when Jonny May’s 55-metre solo effort put them in control early on. At 14-11 up at the break, it appeared there was more than a chance of England inflicting just a third defeat in 47 Tests on the All Blacks. However, missed chances and inaccurate kicking saw the world champions overcome horrendous conditions to triumph 24-21.
Chris Robshaw and team have the chance to go one better tomorrow as they seek their first victory over South Africa in more than eight years. England have come unstuck in 10 of their last 11 encounters against the Springboks. The 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth back in 2012 is their best result in that time.
Although the Red Rose’s head-to-head record makes for uninspiring reading, they will take a huge amount of confidence from the way Ireland dismantled Heyneke Meyer’s outfit 29-15 six days ago. No doubt Graham Roundtree and Andy Farrell will have been impressed with how the Irish disrupted South Africa’s set-piece, an area of their game which is usually so dominant.
Unsurprisingly, Meyer has made five changes from last weekend. Most notably World Cup winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger are welcomed into the starting line-up, joining the likes of captain Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana – the trio have already amassed a staggering 322 caps between them and the latter is 4/1 with Paddy Power to be South Africa’s first try-scorer.
This youthful English team certainly have the capabilities to topple the vulnerable Boks but they will have to be prepared for the most physical of encounters. If England can nullify the visitors’ ferocity, improve on their tactical kicking and execute their scoring opportunities then they are in with a good shout of ending their shoddy record against the 2007 world champions. It is worth buying their supremacy at 4 with Sporting Index.
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