Already one-nil up in the three-match series thanks to their come-from-behind 42-39 win in Joburg a week ago, momentum is with Rassie Erasmus and his charges – and they need to cash in.
Erasmus has made it clear this week he would love to wrap up the series in a city where he made his name and led the Cheetahs to Currie Cup glory. He knows it will be a big deal should the Boks win today, after the disasters of 2016 and 2017.
He and his team – even though they’re only playing their third Test together today - are the talk of the town after Kolisi was named captain (and celebrates his 27th birthday today) and the coach was prepared to gamble with a few young talented stars in the first Test last week.
And then, of course, there was that fightback – from being 24-3 down midway through the first half. The Boks are suddenly enjoying plenty of support – and love – and they can repay that optimism with another good showing against Eddie Jones’ team.
The good news for the Boks is the nerves that got to them in the early stages last week will now, hopefully, be something of the past. A week on, they should be better prepared and primed for what England throw at them, so making a good start will be crucial on this occasion; England are not likely to throw away such a big lead for a second week in a row, if it comes to that.
Defensively the young outside backs were found wanting a week ago, but assistant coach Jacques Nienaber would have righted those wrongs in the last few days so the Boks will be in a better all-round space than they were in Joburg.
And if that box is ticked then captain Kolisi and his men will be able to simply build on everything else they did right a week ago; and there was a fair bit of that.
The Boks were solid in the set-pieces in the first Test and should again win their fair share of possession but England will look to lock Joe Launchbury to provide more competition in the line-outs. But at the same time the home team have Pieter-Steph du Toit in the fold this week, which strengthens their own line-out too.
Where there could be a change from the first Test is how England will handle Bok No9 Faf de Klerk, who bossed the game at Ellis Park and was at the centre of most of the attacking play. Will he be afforded as much time and space as a week ago?
Also, will England look to kick on the Bok back three, something that was expected of them in Joburg but didn’t really happen? Anyway, the towering Duane Vermeulen took most of the restarts in a colossal performance and he will, again, be a key man over the 80 minutes.
England will be better prepared for the Boks, who they didn’t know too well a week ago, but at the same time Erasmus’ men will at least also have an idea of what’s in store for them.
Who dominates the key breakdown area will be crucial because both teams have shown they can be deadly with quick, front foot ball, whether from own phase play or from turn-overs.
It’s a big day for the series; the Boks can wrap it up, which would ensure Tendai Mtawarira gets the perfect 100th cap present and Kolisi gets the perfect birthday gift.
A desperate England want to stop a four-Test losing streak and make sure there is still something to play for next week in Cape Town. For South African rugby fans, a win would again raise hope that the Boks are on the road to recovery after a few years of disappointment and heartache, and that only bodes well a year out from the World Cup.@jacq_west
Independent on Saturday