By Katie Field, Rugby World writer
FOR ENGLAND this weekend’s match is all about bouncing back from last Saturday’s 22-17 defeat in Durban to level the three-Test series before it slips away from them, while for South Africa the priority is to press home their advantage and take an unassailable 2-0 lead. In their quest for “more of the same”, the Springboks have only made team changes where injury has forced them to do so. England, on the other hand, will run out at Ellis Park with a revamped midfield in the hope that they can make better use of the ball their pack wins.
Spring in their step
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has made just one change to his starting line-up, bringing Pat Lambie in at full-back in place of the injured Zane Kirchner. There are two more changes on the bench, where Werner Kruger and Bjorn Basson take the places of sidelined Coenie Oosthuizen and Lambie.
Meyer is clearly satisfied with the way his team performed in his first Test in charge. “We decided against any unnecessary changes as we aim to build some continuity during this season. We still have not had a lot of preparation time, but I’m pleased to have seen how the players have been getting stuck in.
“This weekend will be a big challenge yet again against a good England side, but our focus is still on ourselves. We need to show further improvement from last weekend.”
One area the Springboks will be keen to improve is the lineout, where their new combination of young second rows lost three of their own throws. Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger obviously have a long way to go before they can live up to the legendary reputation of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, but any improvement this weekend will be welcome.
In contrast, Meyer would love to see a repeat of the performances Bryan Habana and Willem Alberts produced last weekend, as they caused England all kinds of problems and gave South Africa the go-forward which ultimately proved decisive.
England boss Stuart Lancaster took decisive action following his side’s first Test loss. Some of England’s problems last weekend stemmed from poor tactical kicking and fly-half Owen Farrell has paid the price as Lancaster brings Toby Flood back in to the No 10 shirt, saying: “Toby has waited patiently for his opportunity and the time is right to allow him the chance to demonstrate his experience and skills in what will be a very tough challenge.”
With Brad Barritt ruled out after a minor eye operation and Mike Brown also injured, Lancaster is giving Jonathan Joseph a first Test start at outside centre, after a sparky cameo off the bench last week. Manu Tuilagi moves to inside centre to accommodate him, Ben Foden switches to full-back in place of Brown and David Strettle comes in on the wing.
The new centre pairing could make or break the game for England. Joseph scored two tries in England’s Killik Cup win over the Barbarians last month and has been in storming form for London Irish, scoring six Premiership tries in 14 starts last season, so could add some cutting edge to England’s attack. Tuilagi’s power and skills have passed the International rugby test before so if he and Joseph can form an understanding quickly enough, they might cause the Springbok defence some problems.
Lancaster says: “To have two 21-year-old centres is exciting and we are looking forward to seeing this combination in action. I am delighted for JJ [Joseph]. He has trained very well and showed against the Barbarians and in his short time on the field in the first Test that he is ready to make the step up.”
The tourists achieved their first win this week, when the midweek side beat South African Barbarians South 54-26, but while that cheered up the England camp, it will have little impact on this weekend’s Test. To beat the Springboks at altitude is always a tough ask, especially when your team’s midfield has not lined up together before. England skipper Chris Robshaw led his side well in Durban and needs to play another blinder in Johannesburg. If he and Flood are both on song, the tourists could give their travelling fans a reason to party, but it’s more likely that South Africa will take a 2-0 lead in the series.
South Africa v England, Saturday 16 June, 4pm BST, Johannesburg, Live on Sky Sports 2
SOUTH AFRICA: Pat Lambie; JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (captain), Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Adrian Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson
ENGLAND: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Jonathan Joseph, Manu Tuilagi, David Strettle; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Mouritz Botha, Geoff Parling, Tom Johnson, Chris Robshaw (captain), Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Lee Mears, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Palmer, Thomas Waldrom, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell, Alex Goode
Referee: Alain Rolland