‘Boks clutching at straws’

What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

The clash at Twickenham is now only five days away. It will be England’s first of the new northern hemisphere season. For the Springboks, it will be the most important match of their four-game tour.

‘Springboks in turmoil and left clutching at straws ahead of England encounter’ reads the headline in today’s Daily Telegraph. Respected writer Mick Cleary wasn’t impressed with what the Boks produced in the 31-31 draw with the Barbarians at Wembley last Saturday.

‘They came back with tries from Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Francois Venter to salvage a modicum of respect,’ Cleary wrote. ‘And that is to lunge for a straw to clutch. England will make all the respectful noises in the buildup but there is turmoil at home [in South Africa] and uncertainty on the pitch.'

The Boks have been boosted by the return of 11 players ahead of the clash against England. ‘They will need these players because they will be judged more rigorously at Twickenham,’ noted Cleary.

The Guardian has run an interview with England fullback Mike Brown, who feels that, ‘England are building some sort of aura in pushing for the ultimate prize’.

Earlier this year, England won the Grand Slam and thumped the Wallabies 3-0 in Australia. Writer Rob Kitson is confident that Eddie Jones’s side will claim four wins over the next month, and finish 2016 unbeaten. England haven’t gone unbeaten in a calendar year since 1992.

Brown tells the Guardian that the team remains focused on the game against the Boks, and that they view it as a special opportunity given that no England side has beaten South Africa since 2006. Nobody in the current England squad has achieved that feat.

Much has been said about the decline of the Boks’ aura. Meanwhile, England feel they are creating a fierce reputation of their own.

’I think we are building some sort of aura,’ Brown told the newspaper. ‘Teams can see what we are about and there is still so much more we can achieve. We are building confidence and pushing towards the ultimate prize, which is being No 1 and winning World Cups.’

On South Africa, Brown realises that they will ‘be desperate to change things and there is no better time to do it than against England on their home patch. They will be massively proud and emotional. We will be prepared for that. For us, it’s about focusing on those first 20 minutes. We have to front up physically and emotionally.’

In today’s edition of the The Times of London, Owen Slot interviews England captain Dylan Hartley. The skipper explains how England have built a new culture and talks about their goals for this season. ‘Last season is over. We know we must improve,' said Hartley.

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Jon Cardinelli