June 15 2012
As is usually the case, there was nothing fancy about the Springboks win in Durban. With minimal preparation time together, brute force was the order of the day and in the third quarter of the match in particular, the Boks steamrollered England into submission, and a match that had been finely balanced at half time, went the way of the hosts. Brad Barritt finished last weekend's clash with a lacerated eyeball illustrating the high level of physicality in the first Test.
Too often England's kicking game was poor last weekend, and it's an area they will have to improve on, especially at altitude and up against the kicking games of their opposite numbers Morne and Francois Steyn. England won't be able to defend their way to victory as they had done on a couple of occasions in the Six Nations; such a tactic wouldn't work against a Springbok team with too much firepower up front, and as such England head coach Stuart Lancaster has freshened up his 22 with new backline combinations.
Toby Flood will replace Owen Farrell at fly-half for England in the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. Jonathan Joseph makes his first Test start in one of five changes to the side that lost the first Test. Manu Tuilagi switches to inside centre, Ben Foden moves to full-back for the injured Mike Brown, and David Strettle comes on to the left wing.
“We will have a crack as going toe to toe with South Africa is very difficult,” Flood said.
“If we can shift their bigger guys around then we have an opportunity to put some points on the board. We have to play in an aggressive but pragmatic way. We want to cause them the type of problems we did in the closing stages at Kings Park, but more so.”
England were also forced to make a change to their original 22 on Friday with Thomas Waldrom taking over from Phil Dowson, who is suffering from a tight hamstring. Uncapped Leicester number eight Waldrom, who scored two tries in a man-of-the-match midweek display against the South Africa Southern Barbarians, could make his Test debut off the bench.
The return of Flood to the starting line-up is designed not just to energise England’s attack, as the Leicester-man did in his brief cameo in Durban, but also to provide greater authority at half-back where he teams up with Leicester colleague Ben Youngs. With two dangerous attacking weapons of varying styles in Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph at his disposal, Flood will look to mix it up in attack and opewrate closer to the gain-line, allowing their running threats the opportunity to create havoc in the Springbok defence.
Altitude will cause the England team a great deal of trouble in the final quarter especially, and keeping the intensity up will be one of the many challenges awaiting this England team.
England go into the second match of a three Test series, knowing that their best opportunity to register a victory against South Africa has come and gone. But Stuart Lancaster and his players will hope to replicate the spirit the British & Irish Lions showed back in 2009 when they won at Ellis Park, the challenge however is considerably tougher this time.