- David Strettle looks back on difficult 2007 tour to South Africa
- "It's great to go and have another shot" – Saracens wing
David Strettle is one of four previous South African tourists in Stuart Lancaster’s England squad but the Saracens wing does not look back on the 2007 trip with any satisfaction.
The 28-year-old was named to start the first Test in Bloemfontein – in which England were humbled 58-10 – but was struck down by a mystery virus which ended his hopes of playing any part in the two-match series.
A stomach bug also affected the squad and, with current tour members Toby Flood and Mike Brown in the side, the second Test was lost 55-22 in Pretoria. Now, Strettle is relishing the chance to return to a rugby nation where he feels England did not do themselves justice last time out.
“I was gutted to miss out having been named to start and it is definitely a place where I’ve wanted to go back,” said Lancaster’s first choice wing for the RBS 6 Nations.
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“It’s great because I’m going back with a completely different touring team now. We were depleted when we went out there as the season structure eliminated a few players from selection and then there was a bug that a lot of the guys picked up.
“So it wasn’t a tour that as a rugby player you look back on and are proud of. When you go out against a top team like South Africa you want to be on your best form, so it’s great to go and have another shot.”
Despite not getting on the field, Strettle spent enough time in the country to garner an appreciation of the passion and vigour that South Africa apply to their rugby.
And while he respects the physical nature in how they approach the game, the former Harlequins man feels that is a far too one-dimensional view that disregards their other attributes.
“It’s a great rugby nation, you can see how passionate they are about the sport. We’ve got a few ‘Saffers’ at Saracens and they tell you about being back home and what rugby means to them and the culture around rugby.
“If you had to name the places in the world where you’d want to go and be tested to play rugby, it is certainly on the list.
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“South Africa are a very physical team, but they bring physicality on top of the basics. They’ve got a great kicking game, great finishers, obviously a very dominant pack, great technique and a great lineout.
“Every team is earmarked for something and theirs is physicality but it is international rugby, you’ve got to meet fire with fire and impose your physicality on them.”
With so many players who have not played rugby in South Africa before, Lancaster used the experience of South Africa-born centre Brad Barritt to give a presentation about the different places England will visit this June.
Strettle, while never missing the opportunity to tease his Saracens teammates, added the culture and history only adds to the sense of anticipation as they approach the first Test in Durban on June 9.
“Brad’s taken the opportunity to get his coaching level two with that presentation,” he said. “No, it’s really interesting because there is so much history and culture surrounding the rugby. Brad gave a talk about the places we’ll be visiting and it just adds to the excitement.”