It is midday on Thursday 13 November 2014. South Africa are due to face England at Twickenham on Saturday the 15th of November. It definitely feels like the calm before the storm.
The Teams are set to go. Semesa Rokoduguni is out with a hip injury and Anthony Watson is in for his first start for England.
For South Africa most notably Handre Pollard and Francois Hougaard are relegated to the bench while Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach replace them respectively.Plus 3 other changes Schalk Burger replaces Teboho Mahoje, Adriaan Strauss replaces Bismarck du Plessis and JP Pietersen replaces Cornal Hendricks
The difference being that despite their loss Stuart Lancaster stuck with his England players while Heyneke Meyer although trying to qualify it by saying its simply rotation has wielded the axe after a disappointing defeat in Dublin.
Which coach is right?
Will a victory on Saturday prove one way or the other?
Is the emphasis on the result on Saturday?
Is the emphasis more long term?
The answers to these questions is anyone’s guess. Time will reveal all.
For England, selection questions are; Is this mid-field combination of Eastmond and Barrit a quick fix for the time being? Is Owen Farrel the best no.10? Is Billy Vunipola better as an impact player rather than a starter? Is Chris Robshaw a good decision maker? Is Chris Robshaw doing enough to hold onto the no 7 top?
I feel that in the case of England they have clear goals and understand how they are going to attempt to achieve them. The biggest goal in the near future will result in England winning the world cup. Knowing what you want and how you are going to try and achieve it means everyone involved with the squad their efforts and energy are moving in the same direction.
So with England it’s a matter of tinkering with selection and not trying to find a new direction.
While South Africa I feel are trying to change tack. Playing in a very similar style to the way they played when they beat the All Blacks in Johannesburg. They never got it going against the Irish.Now I feel they will resort to a more territorial game. Hopefully they are aware of how dangerous Mike Brown is on the counter attack.Kicking down his throat will cost you.
Francois Hougaard has been made the scapegoat for the Springbok’s loss to Ireland. He is not a playmaker or possess the vision of a guy like Fourie du Preez. He clears the ball from rucks very quickly with a fast sharp pass. He doesn’t kick often and doesn’t make breaks all that often even though he has pace to burn.What that gives you is a fast paced game.
The Fly-half in any team is the primary decision maker but flyhalves need to share that burden . Historically South Africa has shared the duties between scrum-half and fly-half. The Kiwi’s and Aussies share it between fly-half and inside centre. With Francois Hougaard not being a decision maker and Jean de Villiers at inside centre not being very creative, the burden has been shared with Willie le Roux coming up from full-back to be first receiver.
Ireland had obviously been well aware of Willie le Roux and marked him very closely while putting the squeeze on young Handre Pollard.
Now with the selection of Reinach things will change. Reinach likes to make breaks on his own .This immediately means the South African attack will narrow playing into the hands of an organised English defence. I would say Cobus Reinach is a decision maker he decides to try to do everything on his own.
Now that I’ve slated him , he’ll probably have a blinder and prove me wrong.
Maybe I don’t understand what Heyneke Meyer is trying to achieve by putting in a half-back combination that failed to create much for a highly rated Sharks backline in Super Rugby. People have suggested that it is to get them used to Northern Hemisphere conditions ahead of next years Rugby World Cup. Surely the Italy test would be the right time for that. Maintaining confidence is surely more important.
I feel England seem like they know what path they are on and happy to be on it whereas South Africa seem to not trust their satnav and have gone to the shop to buy another one. Cobus Reinach could be the reason the Boks win but he could be the reason the Boks lose. I think England will win by a couple of points.