JOHANNESBURG – The Springboks are ready to turn up the intensity when they meet England in the second of three Tests here on Saturday.
In a high-scoring, fast-paced game in Joburg last weekend, the Boks fought back from being 24-3 down midway through the first half to win 42-39 and go 1-0 up in the series. The high-octane affair saw the Boks and England score five tries each.
A similar Test is in store on Saturday, with home team coach Rassie Erasmus saying this week's match could better what was produced in Joburg.
“It was an intense game, fast, high speed,” he said in reflecting on his second match in charge of the Boks. “There were a lot of line-breaks, a lot of running, and I think it’s going to be even more intense this weekend.
“Both teams are desperate. We want to bury the series here and they obviously want to keep it alive,” said the former flanker.
“And for the second week running the game is being played at altitude, which means more pace, more space to play in and greater intensity.”
Next weekend's third Test is in Cape Town, a venue that may favour England, who have now lost four Tests in a row.
Erasmus has made it clear he and his coaching team want to continue trying new things and with attack coach Swys de Bruin favouring ball-in-hand type rugby, the Boks are sure to look to play another fast, expansive game.
Coming into the Bok selection mix are Frans Malherbe, who will take over from the fatigued Wilco Louw at tighthead prop, and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who’ll come in at blindside flank for Jean-Luc du Preez.
Du Toit especially will add a new dimension to the Bok pack. He has shown in recent months he is comfortable on the side of the scrum, having fulfilled the No 7 duties for the Stormers, and his high work-rate will suit a fast, expansive game. He may be a lock at heart, but he’s quick around the field, has good hands and puts in plenty of tackles. And he’s a line-out option, too.
Erasmus said before the series started - when Du Toit captained the side that travelled to Washington to face Wales - that the Stormers man would definitely be considered as a flank option and it seems his time has come.
Whether Du Preez drops to the bench in a straight swap with Du Toit will be revealed today, as will whether Schalk Brits, brought into the squad on Sunday, will make the cut this week or not. The 37-year-old who retired from club duty recently has only had limited time with his team-mates but is considered a real playing option.
“It’s so nice having Schalk in the team,” said forwards coach Matt Proudfoot. “He brings a new dynamic to the squad, and he’s able to pass on so much knowledge, to the young props as well.”
Erasmus is expected to make just the two changes to the starting XV when he announces his line-up today, but there could be more on the bench, with the coach wanting to see as many of his players in action before the series wraps up.
The possible Springbok team is:
Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, S’bu Nkosi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Beast Mtawarira