There was pressure all round ahead of the Springboks’ three-Test series against England. Pressure to perform well and pressure to get the results after a couple of troubled seasons. And seeing that the Boks have succeeded in winning the series with a game to go, here are five ways I think the Boks can make it a series whitewash at Newlands today (kickoff 5.05 pm).
Play...in any weather
The conditions have been a big talking point ahead today, and earlier this week Bok chief Rassie Erasmus said that it would be “stupid to try and play beautiful running rugby” if it’s wet. Now I’m not going to get into how certain teams still “play” even it’s wet and windy, but seeing the Boks follow up on some of the impressive attacking spells they’ve produced in the first two Tests would be impressive. Go direct if you have to, mix it up, just don’t cut the running, the passing and the general attack completely. Use that ammo.
Handle the high ball
It’s an area that’s been an issue for the Boks and earlier this week, and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said they’ll continue to work on it. With a few big boots in the England backline, the pressure will be on the Boks’ inexperienced back three.
No8 Duane Vermeulen has been a real pain for the English on the ground, and seeing more of that this afternoon will be great. The loose forwards, in general have been good, and a big set-piece performance is non-negotiable. Luckily for the hosts, they have quality front rowers on the bench in Thomas du Toit and Steven Kitshoff.
Cut the space out wide
There’s not a lot of issues you can raise about the Springbok outside backs’ recent performances, but they’re certainly going to have to step up their defence in the wider channels. England can’t be presented with another opportunity to skin them out wide: Owen Farrell, Mike Brown and Jonny May’s kick-chases shouldn’t be given any scope to try and exploit any gaps left by the Boks.
Watch naughty Cipriani
There must be some extreme motivation fuelling one of England rugby’s finest attacking players. With Danny Cipriani finally running out in the white No10 jersey for the first time in a decade, one can only imagine how dead set the 30-year-old is on making it one to remember. Regardless of the conditions, the Wasp pivot’s ability to bring creativity will always be something that will keep Bok defences alert.
And it’s not something Erasmus needs any briefing on: “Willie (le Roux) will tell you he learnt so much from Cipriani (with the Wasps), just in terms of running lines and attack and picking the right options. So I think we’ll be tested; it’ll also depend on the weather. He’s a wonderful player ... a bit of a naughty one.”
SOUTH AFRICA: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (capt), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (capt), 11 Mike Brown, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler
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