- Mike Brown looking forward to another crack at Boks, this time on full stomach
- "We're concentrating on diffusing their kicking game" says full back
Photo: Getty Images
Mike Brown is yet again preparing to face a Springbok cavalry charge in Durban on Saturday but on this occasion the Harlequins full back feels in a better position to display his undoubted rugby skills.
When England last toured South Africa, in 2007, Brown was thrust into the altitude of Bloemfontein for a Test debut against a South Africa side which romped to a 55-10 victory and went on to lift the Rugby World Cup that same year.
A daunting prospect at the best of times for a 21-year-old who just spent a season in the second tier with Quins, made even more difficult by a stomach bug which left him unable to eat on the day of the game.
Brown, who makes his first Test start for four years at Kings Park, said: “It’s brilliant to be back here and it’s funny how things swing in roundabouts sometimes.”
“I picked up the bug the night before the first Test unfortunately so I wasn’t feeling my best, I could hardly eat any food on the day of the game so I was lacking energy. They were such a world class team that went on to win the world cup.
“They were so physical in everything they did and I’m expecting it to be the same this weekend but it’s a massive opportunity to show what we can do.”
While he can expect to eat on the day of the game this time, Brown also feels he has developed as a player in the intervening five years, citing the influence of his Head Coach at Harlequins, former Ireland international full back Conor O’Shea.
Photo: Getty Images
The 2012 Aviva Premiership winner has also, at his own expense, sought the assistance of specialist sprint coach Margot Wells in his aim to become the complete No.15: “I’ve matured a lot, Conor coming in has been a brilliant mentor for me, as an ex-international full back you can’t ask for better.
“Working with Margot Wells off the pitch on my physical game and my speed, all those things combined with playing in such a brilliant Quins team has helped my game massively. Going on to win the league and then that final just shows how far this team has come.”
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said he’s picked Brown, in part, for his aerial skills and long-range left boot and the 26-year-old says he is expecting to be called upon to collect a series of high bombs from South Africa fly half Morne Steyn.
But as a counter-attacker who, according to Lancaster, has beaten more defenders than anyone else this season, Brown and his back-three colleagues Ben Foden and Chris Ashton will look to run the ball back when they can.
He said: “We know they’ve got a world class kicker in Steyn and that’s one of the strengths they have.
“But we’re used to playing teams like Saracens who have a strong kicking game and the back three we have are all comfortable under the high ball and we’ve been practising it all week.
“If the opportunity arises myself, Ben and Chris will look to run it back but we’re concentrating on diffusing that kicking game first and foremost and whatever opens up will open up.
“They’re one of the top teams in the world so we know they’ve got the all round game, we need to be focussed throughout the game as they can pull something out from anywhere.”