A hot topic of debate this week among rugby pundits is around which strategy Rassie Eramus will adopt in his first major Test match, and even wily Eddie Jones is not sure what to expect. At a media conference yesterday to name his England team, Jones was asked if the Boks would play conservatively or go with the attacking play that has been characteristic of the country’s Super Rugby sides.
“That is the sixty-four dollar question,” Jones smiled, referring to a famous US quiz show in the '40s in which contestants competed for 64 silver dollars. “Can you (South African) guys help me? Look, Rassie has had a lot of success with a certain way of playing and he will probably use the traditional strengths of Springbok rugby but he is also smart enough to know you have to use the talent at your disposal. So I reckon it is going to be a bit of both (a mix of conservative and the Super Rugby style).’
Jones said he had noted the absence of Bismarck du plessis and Frans Steyn from the match day squad and expressed his disappointment.
“They are both good lads. I enjoyed their company in 2007 (when he was an assistant to Bok coach Jake White) and I was looking forward to catching up with them,” the coach said.
“For whatever reason they are not available, and I am not sure what it is, it is disappointing that they are not here because we want to play against the best team.”
Jones was asked if the selection of two Springbok debutants on the wings offered England a target and he suggested that S’bu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi might be on the receiving end of some aerial bombs tomorrow.
“They are both really good players, judging by their form in Super Rugby. They are very attacking players and with Lukhanyo Am the Boks have some real firepower out wide,” he said before adding with a grin: “But playing your first Test... the ball goes up in the air... you have to have your wits about you, and I am sure they will, and we might just test them at some stage.”
The Springbok loose trio does not have a fetcher, while England's does.But Jones said this did not necessarily give his side an advantage in winning the ball on the ground.
“Their loose trio is fairly consistent with South African rugby,” he said. ‘Traditionally they play left right, and as Jake (White) used to say, his best use for a fetcher was to fetch the beers, and he had a few of those... So I don’t see anything different and Duane Vermeulen plays well over the ball, he is very good at that as a No 8.”
Jones was asked if he anticipated the likes of Vermeulen and Damian de Allende having a crack at George Ford, the smallish England flyhalf.
“That is a trend in rugby but if you do it against Ireland you get in trouble, and if you do it against England it is no problem. I find that the biggest contradiction in world rugby but that is the way it is,” Jones said, referring to criticism of England’s alleged bullying of Johnny Sexton.
Jones has included seven players in the starting XV who were involved in the English Premiership final between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs two weekends ago. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens) will make his first start for England while two uncapped players - Brad Shields (Hurricanes) and Ben Spencer (Saracens) - are among the substitutes.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Mike Brown, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona