All you need to know about the Test between South Africa and England in Cape Town
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The series has been lost, the criticism has rained down. In some ways, the pressure on Eddie Jones’s England has eased because of the lowering of expectations.
Five successive Test defeats since beating Wales in round two of the Six Nations has seen England drop to sixth in the world rankings, and no one – on the outside at least – is predicting an England win at Newlands this weekend with any degree of confidence.
The first two Tests of the series saw England build a handsome lead, 24-3 and 12-0 respectively, with some beautifully incisive attacking play. Those leads then evaporated amid performances that, at times, descended into disarray.
Some feistiness is fine, and conceding penalties at scrums and mauls is an occupational hazard. But there are still too many daft indiscretions, such as the ones committed by Mako Vunipola and Nathan Hughes last week. Twenty missed tackles also makes grisly reading.
Such actions are killing England and Sky commentator Miles Harrison was right when he said that their indiscipline “has gone from a disease to an epidemic”.
Eddie Jones alluded to 25 missing players but most of the key personnel are here. And there were good things in Bloemfontein, such as the off-the-top lineout ball, the fluidity of the back three, and the targeting of the opposition wings through well-directed bombs.
However, England must look to prove they are a ship merely going through stormy waters, not one about to sink without trace. To do that, they need to win the final Test in Cape Town against a Springboks side that could be more vulnerable after making a number of changes.
It’s a match that could be seminal in the career of Danny Cipriani, recalled at No 10 after a ten-year hiatus. Will he provide the spark needed to turn around England’s fortunes, or merely get bogged down in the weary morass?
What’s the big team news?
Only one place to begin – the selection of Danny Cipriani for his first start in nearly ten years. His last outing in the ten shirt was in November 2008, when the Springboks dumped England 42-6 at Twickenham.
The new Gloucester man was flagged as a full-back by Jones when the squad was named, but he plays in his usual position, ousting George Ford in an otherwise unchanged back-line.
Up front, there are three enforced changes because of the unavailability of Billy Vunipola (broken arm), Mako Vunipola (family reasons) and Brad Shields (illness).
No 8 Nathan Hughes, loosehead Joe Marler and blindside Chris Robshaw step in.
The bench has a six-two split, with Ben Spencer and Denny Solomona covering the back positions, and the five-strong Exeter contingent includes uncapped lock Jonny Hill.
The Springboks shuffle the cards, making five changes from the XV that clinched the series in Bloemfontein. The back-line gets a makeover with full-back Warrick Gelant, centres Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen, and fly-half Elton Jantjies all brought in.
Chiliboy Ralepelle is named at hooker and there will be delight in both hemispheres at the selection of Schalk Brits, 37, as his bench understudy. The ex-Saracens man, delaying his retirement plans a little longer, has amassed just ten caps down the years despite being arguably the most skilful and enterprising hooker ever to play the game.
Young scrum-half Embrose Papier, who made his Springboks debut off the bench against Wales in Washington, is also among the replacements.
What have the coaches said?
England coach Eddie Jones said: “We’ve had a really upbeat training week. We are up for the battle and are going to rip in on Saturday. We want another committed performance where it will be crucial to maintain our composure when the heat is on.
“We’re expecting a wet and windy old day at Newlands and have elected to play Danny Cipriani ahead of George Ford to give us a left-foot kicking option. We’ll need to jump out of the blocks quickly again and make sure we maintain that pressure and make good decisions.
“I’ve been really impressed with the fortitude of the squad under Owen Farrell, who is a young captain, and with a number of young players who have really stuck to the task.”
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said: “I expect a very physical and close-fought game. We are desperate to win and make it 3-0 while England will be desperate to win the game, make it 2-1 and finish their tour on a positive note.
“No one is out of the team because of a lack of form; the changes are due to our long-term planning for next year’s World Cup as we continue to build squad depth and capacity.
“We made a lot of mistakes last week and this Saturday gives us the opportunity to rectify those errors and to continue to build on our team cohesion.”
Any interesting statistics?
* The first-ever Test at Newlands was the meeting of Bill Maclagan’s British Isles team and South Africa – way back in 1891.
* England have only played there twice, losing 27-9 in 1994 and 18-0 in 1998 when Clive Woodward caused a row by moving the team into a nicer hotel. The opportunity is there for someone to become the first England try-scorer against South Africa on this ground.
* England also played at Newlands twice during the 1995 World Cup, beating Australia in the quarter-final but losing to a Jonah Lomu-inspired New Zealand side in the subsequent semi.
* Defeat for England this weekend would bring them their first 3-0 series whitewash since Stuart Lancaster’s men lost by that margin in New Zealand four years ago.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
The match at Newlands kicks off at 4.05pm UK time on Saturday and is live on Sky Sports. There will also be live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and online.
The referee is New Zealand’s Glen Jackson, under whom South Africa have never lost in six previous matches officiated by the New Zealander.
Jackson’s Test refereeing debut was the 2012 England-Fiji match in which Joe Launchbury won his first cap. Will Greenwood described the English lock as “like a brontosaurus bending down to eat a tree” – a magical analogy!
The assistant referees are Romain Poite of France and Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand while the TMO is Ireland’s Simon McDowell.
What are the line-ups?
SOUTH AFRICA: Warrick Gelant; S’busiso Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Frans Malherbe, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux.
ENGLAND: Elliot Daly; Jonny May, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (capt), Mike Brown; Danny Cipriani, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje, Chris Robshaw, Tom Curry, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Ben Spencer, 23 Denny Solomona.
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