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FOR Springbok scrum-half Francois Hou-gaard, whitewashing England by winning Saturday’s third Test in Port Elizabeth is a case of simple arithmetic – adding the second half of the first Test in Durban to the first half of the second Test in Johannesburg to achieve the perfect 80 minutes.
The Boks were irrepressible in those periods while being eminently forgettable in the alternative halves of those games.
“Of course it is not quite as simple as that because there are two teams in the game and a top quality side like England will inevitably have their times when they dominate, and make no mistake, they are going to be ‘up’ for this one on Saturday,” Hougaard smiled. “As much as we would like to win the match and complete the series 3-0, so they want to prove a point and go home having won the last match between us.”
Hougaard said the match is being treated with the same critical importance as the first two Tests. “We are not going to slow down, we are going to do what we do well and play with full force. And we believe that the new faces coming into the team are going to invigorate us more than anything else,” he said.
The Boks are likely to have Gio Aplon come into the side at fullback for the injured Patrick Lambie, Wynand Olivier at centre for Frans Steyn (he’s getting married) and debutant Jacques Potgieter for blindside flank Willem Alberts. It is likely that Heyneke Meyer will keep the status quo of a bruiser at No 7 who will be replaced late in the game by the likes of a Keegan Daniel or a Ryan Kankowski.
Hougaard, who will win his 18th cap on Saturday, agreed that a last laugh for England on Saturday would detract from the series win. “When we got together in Durban, the talk was not so much of 3-0 but of winning every Test match we play, and of course it follows that if you do that, then you are going to win the series 3-0,” he says.
“But, honestly, each Test has been a different proposition. Before Durban we had only five days to prepare, so it is understandable that the first half was not smooth but we did well to step up and win the Test; the second Test, things came together nicely before we had disruptions in the second half and now, for the third Test, we want to put both halves together.”
What is the key to the complete 80-minute performance?
“The trick is to keep focusing on the basics because when you get that right, the rest of your (attacking) game follows while at the same time, it shuts the opposition out from feeding on your mistakes,” Hougaard reflected. “We have seen how England have scored tries from our mistakes. The try from the ball thrown over the top of the lineout last week is a good example.
“In the second Test we focused on the breakdown to get quick ball and it worked well for us in that we fixed a lot of small things, such as me having better protection and that, in turn, resulted in me having a better kicking game, and our chasers were able to put them under serious pressure, especially because more often than not we were playing in their half of the field, which is where you want to be, obviously.”
How does Hougaard see England approaching this game?
“They will target the set pieces and try and force us into mistakes. They have seen that they can play off our mistakes, so we need to minimise them.”
Ashfak Mohamed, meanwhile, reports that Elton Jantjies is in line to make his Test debut off the bench on Saturday. The Lions flyhalf was a Bok tourist and played a midweek game against the Barbarians at Twickenham in London on the 2010 end-of-year tour, but has yet to earn a Test cap.
It is understood that Jantjies will be included on the bench when coach Heyneke Meyer names his match 22 today. The 21-year-old pivot was at flyhalf when the likely substitutes ran in place of the starting players during practice at Grey High in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
Kankowski is also set to be picked in place of Super Rugby teammate Daniel on the bench, as he joined Jantjies, Bjorn Basson, Flip van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Werner Kruger in the “main” team in the second half of the practice.
Kruger trained at tighthead prop for the entire session as Jannie du Plessis sat out due to a cut to his nose. But the Sharks No 3 will be ready to play on Saturday. Lambie and Alberts again didn’t train, so Gio Aplon is likely to start at fullback and Jacques Potgieter is set to make his Test debut at No 7.
Likely Springbok team: Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (capt), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Jacques Potgieter, Marcell Coetzee, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Elton Jantjies, Bjorn Basson.