It is fair to say the battle lines have been drawn and Twickenham is not going to be for the faint of heart because it is also the final game of the year for the Springboks, writes Mike Greenaway.
IF THERE was even an inkling of doubt that there will be a strong smell of retribution in the Twickenham air when the Springboks and England reconvene for the first time since the World Cup final, it was squashed by Eddie Jones before the dew had settled on his team’s win over Australia.
The Wallabies had been beaten 30-15 – replicating the exact score at Murrayfield earlier in the day when the Boks eased home against the Scots – and it was the eighth consecutive win for Eddie’s England over the team he coached to the 2003 World Cup final, where he also lost.
In no uncertain terms, Eddie told reporters that he wanted “a South African scalp” on Saturday.
“They are the World Cup champions and we are not,” he said in his inimitable way. “It is going to be a very important Test – it is the final game of the autumn and we see it as a final and we want to take them on. We will have to play differently to beat them. We want to go into the Six Nations with a South African scalp.”
It is fair to say the battle lines have been drawn, and Twickers is not going to be for the faint of heart because it is also the final game of the year for the Springboks, and they want one last hurrah after the most difficult of years, and adding another England scalp to the one already adorning Rassie Erasmus’ mantlepiece will have the most decorated waterboy in history in raptures.
Because let’s not forget that the Boks will not be the only ones in London on Saturday with a point to prove. Three years ago, a smirking Owen Farrell got away with murder when Aussie referee Angus Gardner (boy wasn’t he well behaved toward the Boks at Murrayfield!) inexplicably failed to penalise Farrell after a ridiculous armless charge on Andre Esterhuizen.
Gardner completely corpsed on the big stage, even after watching the incident repeatedly on the big screen, although he wasn’t helped by the gormless TMO.
If a penalty had been awarded, it would have been virtually in front of the posts and even when Handre Pollard is having a bad day he doesn’t fluff those, and the Boks would have won.
That unpunished incident resulted in Rassie making a satirical video in which he coached Esterhuizen on how to tackle without using his arms. Yip, that is where all this video production business started for the Bok boss. He is getting quite good at it. An Oscar can’t be far off!
The problem I foresee for England is that the Boks showed against Scotland that they are building nicely towards this year-end climax.
They were a touch rusty against Wales, their first match since beating the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship but were much smoother in Edinburgh. The Boks’ game plan is not rocket science and when they implement it efficiently, nobody can live with them in the final quarter when the “anaconda” effect squeezes the last vestiges of life out the opposition.
The Boks also have some key men in great form, notably captain Siya Kolisi who at 30 has been consistently playing the best rugby of his life, and this is after he went into the series against the Lions with questions over his place in the team, and with the man himself asking Jacques Nienaber not to pick him if he could not rejuvenate himself.
And then there is Eben Etzebeth, the man best equipped to play a prominent role in an Anglo-Boer War. In his best performance of the year – and this is taking into account his fine games against the All Blacks – he made 12 carries, 48 metres and made eight thunderous tackles in an 80-minute performance.
Nienaber must just make the brave call to drop Herschel Jantjies for Cobus Reinach and the Boks will be primed to rain on Eddie’s parade.