What the English newspapers are saying ahead of next Saturday’s Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham.
England have won their last nine Tests. The Boks have lost five out of nine Tests in 2016, and failed to impress in this past Saturday’s 31-31 draw with the Barbarians at Wembley.
England are well placed to end their 10-year winless streak against South Africa next Saturday. The English media believe that Eddie Jones’s side are on the brink of an important result. At the same time, many writers have recognised the need for England to up their physicality and get their minds right.
‘Wounded Boks at their most dangerous, Jones warns his men,’ reads the Sunday Telegraph’s biggest rugby headline (bar the one related to Ireland’s incredible win against New Zealand in Chicago).
Steve James says the Boks are ‘such a mess in all respects, from their structure back home to their recent record of four losses in the last five Tests to their quota-affected selection to their tactical confusion that there seems to be only one result possible in London on Saturday: England will win’.
The England coach is quoted in the same article: ‘The Boks know that their one chance for redemption for the whole year is beating England,' says Jones. 'If they beat England, they will go home as heroes. They will have a certain amount of desperation. So it comes down to our mindset. They are going to come to Twickenham with enormous desire, so we have to be able to meet that.’
In the same paper, Dan Schofield describes South Africa’s tackling in the match against the Barbarians as ‘weak’ and goes on to say that their breakdown work ‘left a lot to be desired as they conceded an eye-watering 25 turnovers’.
Sir Ian McGeechan has called for England to select combative players like Tom Wood and Dave Attwood in a column titled, ‘England should bring in Wood to smash them at the breakdown’.
McGeechan says England need to make a statement in the first two breakdowns of next week’s game. ‘Wood is a scrapper and can smash the first breakdown, and Chris Robshaw can hit the second breakdown.’
McGeechan feels that Jones has to include two physical locks in Attwood and Joe Launchbury in the starting team. He reveals that he may have got this selection wrong himself when he picked his British & Irish Lions side to start against the Boks in the first Test of the 2009 series in South Africa.
‘Boks in turmoil’, screams the headline in the Sunday Times. In this article, Stephen Jones looks at the many challenges facing the Boks. ‘If they win, it will be a magnificent effort against all odds.' In another piece focusing on the make-up of the England side, Jones states that ‘Eddie Jones’ team is not likely to be troubled by South Africa on Saturday’.
In the same paper, Stuart Barnes looks forward to the physical battle between Launchbury and Bok lock Eben Etzebeth. ‘Etzebeth is the enforcer’s enforcer. South Africa will need something special from him next week.
‘The Boks have been amorphous, veering at the start of the Rugby Championship from a 10th rate imitation of New Zealand’s offloading game to third-rate kick and chase Springbok rugby. Where they have done well is at the lineout,’ Barnes continues. ‘No man is more important to the Boks than Etzebeth. England have been taking too many backward steps to Etzebeth and friends for too long. If England can match them physically, they can end their winless streak .’
The sentiment is echoed by sir Clive Woodward in the Mail on Sunday. ‘Win the physical battle and you will beat them,’ the 2003 World Cup-winning coach writes. ‘The judo sessions England have been having are all about the physical battle and dominating the contact area. Eddie brought in Jason Ryle from the Melbourne Storm to tighten up the defence. Everything points to England taking their defence up another level against South Africa.’