It will be hard to replicate the drama of their epic first test when South Africa and England clash again in Bloemfontein tomorrow as the tourists seek to improve their discipline and accuracy to end a four-game losing streak. The Springboks rallied from 24-3 down after 17 minutes to claim a 42-39 victory in the opening game of the three-match series at Ellis Park last Saturday, prompting South African fans to wonder what is possible under new coach Rassie Erasmus.
Yet for England it was another dismal loss, beset by the same problems they encountered in the Six Nations as they once again showed an inability to stay on the right side of the referee, with a penalty count of 17-4 against Eddie Jones’ side. “If you take that penalty count and it becomes eight-four we win the Test match. Hopefully we will fix that this week,” Jones told SkySports yesterday.
“The team has been very good. They are making more steps forward to have more ownership
of the team which is what we want. They are all big contests for us now. We want to win Test matches and there is a lot of noise, a lot of pressure, but we have to find a way through this. We have a young bunch of players who are trying to do that.”
With a little over a year to go until the next World Cup, Jones has handed a first start to New Zealand-born flank Brad Shields in place of one of his stalwarts, Chris Robshaw, a move he says is intended to counter the South African lineout. “Chris Robshaw has been outstanding for us but we just felt we needed another lineout (option),” Jones said. “Brad’s lineout jumping will come in handy for us. He is a tough workrate player like Robbo is so we want to pick up what Robbo has been doing and take to another level plus his lineout jumping.”
Jones could also give a first test runout in three years off the bench to flyhalf Danny Cipriani. “His desperation impresses me, he really wants to play. We know he has got nice skills and his attitude has been outstanding.”
Joe Launchbury also starts at lock after recovering from a calf injury. South Africa have made two changes to their starting side, with utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit coming in at flank and Frans Malherbe taking over at tighthead prop.
Sexton seeks to calm Ireland and keep series alive
Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton has a point to prove in a must-win second Test against Australia tomorrow after being restored to the starting side for the clash in Melbourne.
Sexton found himself riding the replacements bench in the
18-9 first Test loss in Brisbane, where coach Joe Schmidt gave Joey Carbery the start as he builds depth ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The addition of 32-year-old British and Irish Lions flyhalf Sexton for the clash at Melbourne
Rectangular Stadium (kickoff 0805 GMT), however, should provide some calm assurance for an Ireland side rattled last week in Brisbane.
“He’s a world class player and he’s probably been the rock of their side for a number of years,” Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley told Australian Associated Press this week.
“He’s been the man who has led them to so much success over the last 15 to 18 months.
“We saw how threatening Sexton was when he came on, he made a big impact taking the ball to the line a bit more and backing his running.
“He found a few holes through the middle of our game.”
The resumption of Sexton’s scrumhalves partnership with Conor Murray should also create a more varied attacking game, with the flyhalf’s running and decision making complementing Murray’s tactical kicking.
Penetrating the tough Wallabies defence is not the only issue Schmidt’s team had to work
on this week after the breakdown was dominated by loose forward David Pocock at Lang Park.
The return of the 30-year-old from a year-long sabbatical was seen as a key factor in a Wallabies win that ended Ireland’s 12-match unbeaten run and continued their winless streak on Australian soil since 1979.
Pocock not only scored the pivotal try in the 72nd minute but his ability to turn over, or slow, the opposition ball clearly hampered Ireland’s inability to turn their normally clinical phase play into more points.
The flanker could be in for a more direct challenge tomorrow with Ireland’s ball carriers expected to force him to make the tackle rather than be the ‘second man in’.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has named an unchanged side in successive weeks for the first time in his 46-test tenure and said he expected them to carry the momentum from Brisbane into the second match.
“I think first game of the season, we had a rush, we crammed a lot last week, so I’d just like to
give those guys another opportunity to get out there with the understanding of being together for another three or for days
and try and do better,” Cheika said.
“I think we need to raise the bar on ourselves, on our own standards this week to give ourselves a chance of winning the game.”
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