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South Africa v England – first Test preview

08 June 2012

  • Get up to speed with how to keep up with the action, the key clashes and new caps
  • Meyer and Lancaster embark on three-Test showdown

Ben Foden takes a high ball under pressure

Photo: Getty Images

The anticipation that has been growing steadily since a drizzly mid-March afternoon at Twickenham can finally cease, as the first chapter of England’s enthralling three-Test series against South Africa gets underway tomorrow afternoon in Durban.

Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks have a transitional look to them but, even with three debutants in their ranks, they will pose a hugely abrasive challenge to the tourists as they look to banish memories of an underwhelming Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Thanks largely to the influence of new head coach Stuart Lancaster, England have put last autumn well behind them and, boasting an impressive second-place finish in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, are primed to make significant strides on the road to 2015. This fascinating encounter is not to be missed.

When? Saturday, June 9
Kings Park, Durban
5pm local time, 4pm BST

How to keep up with the action

  • Live on Sky Sports Two from 3.30pm
  • Regular updates on BBC Five Live 
  • Live text commentary on the free RFU iPhone app (search iTunes for Official RFU)
  • Live score updates from @Official_RFU on Twitter
  • Match report, post-match interviews and highlights on

The teams

South Africa

15. Zane Kirchner, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Frans Steyn, 12. Jean de Villiers (c), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard; 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Juandré Kruger, 6. Willem Alberts, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 8. Pierre Spies
Replacements: 16. Adriann Strauss, 17. Coenie Oosthuizen, 18. Flip Van Der Merwe, 19. Keegan Daniel, 20. Ruan Pienaar, 21. Pat Lambie, 22. Wynand Olivier


15. Mike Brown, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Ben Foden, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Mouritz Botha, 5. Geoff Parling, 6. Tom Johnson, 7. Chris Robshaw (c), 8. Ben Morgan
Replacements: 16. Lee Mears, 17. Paul Doran-Jones, 18. Tom Palmer, 19. Phil Dowson, 20. Lee Dickson, 21. Toby Flood, 22. Jonathan Joseph

Key Clashes

Morne Steyn v Mike Brown: The hosts will look to settle into the series by employing a regimented kicking game and a fierce, disciplined chase. Steyn, quite simply, is the best in man in the world to implement these tactics. Expect a gratuitous peppering of the touchline and plenty of high-balls, where Mike Brown, having forced his way into the number 15 shirt, lies in wait.

Morne Steyn limbers up in training

Photo: Getty Images

Four years ago, Brown was thrust in front of a Springbok juggernaut for his Test debut, helpless to stop his side slipping to a 55-10 thrashing. Now, with an exceptional season for Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins behind him, England’s full back will be confident of dealing with this considerable challenge.

The front row: South Africans love scrummagging – this is one of world rugby’s most well-worn clichés. It also happens to be very true and though Meyer has chosen to blood three forwards, his front line has a very familiar feel. ‘The Beast’ – Tendai Mtawarira – joins Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis – his Sharks clubmates  – in a formidable trio who share 104 Tests between them.

On the opposite side of the experience scale, Joe Marler makes a bow on England’s loosehead, while Dan Cole and Dylan Hartley continue their burgeoning allegiance. The set-piece will, as always, be pivotal and the battle between these six men will go a long way towards deciding which team wrestles ascendancy in Durban.


A new-look lock combination of Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth is thrust in the South African boiler room and charged with replacing the immortal second-row partnership of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. However, after strong starts to the Super 15 campaign for the Blue Bulls and the Stormers respectively, they are unlikely to be perturbed. 21 year-old Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee also makes his maiden Test start.

Both of England’s debutants also earn recognition on the back of continued domestic excellence – Marler honoured for a key role in the capture of the Aviva Premiership with Harlequins and Tom Johnson following another superb season with the Exeter Chiefs. Exciting backline prospect Jonathan Joseph can open his account from the replacements’ bench.

Quotes from the camps

Heyneke Meyer (South Africa head coach): “I believe in only two kinds of rugby – the winning kind and the losing kind. We're going to aim to play the first one using traditional South African strengths such as having great, big forwards and skilful backs.”

Stuart Lancaster (England head coach): ”I’ve always picked the best possible side to win the game, picked players on form and we’ll do that again this time. The players are fresh, ready, looking forward to the game and we’ll certainly be giving it our best shot.”