- England assistant coach hopes to create more good memories of Ellis Park
- Guys get a chance to play because they are good enough and we back them – Rowntree
Graham Rowntree is confident that England will be able to rectify the teething problems that blighted their Durban defeat a week ago and can “thrive” off the hostile atmosphere of a partisan Coca-Cola Park.
Speaking at the captain’s run on the eve of Saturday’s second Test, Rowntree called upon his unchanged forward pack to find another gear as they look to level up the series.
“I was disappointed with the result because we worked very hard as a forward pack and deserved more than what we got,” he said.
“I’ve challenged the lads to go again and lift up another level in every area of the game. I want them to really go after the Springboks this week.”
Though England’s superiority at the set-piece was a very prominent feature of an RBS 6 Nations, the tourists did not manage to exert dominance at Kings Park, losing five of their eight scrums.
Faced with that damning statistic, Rowntree admitted that there had been an overwhelming concentration on cohesion over the course of the training week.
“The [three] scrum engagement penalties were disappointing to say the least,” he added. “We got anxious there. Some of the guys, particularly the second rows, couldn’t hear the referee’s calling because it was so loud out, but you can’t guess.
Believe it or not, that is only the sixth time we have been penalised in two years. We are usually good there, and any uncertainty has been eradicated.”
Photo: Getty Images
Moving on to discuss the forced change in England’s match-day 22, which has seen back-row replacement Phil Dowson make way for Thomas Waldrom – a two-try hero of the midweek win over Southern Barbarians – Rowntree seemed certain that the Kiwi-born Leicester Tiger would be able to make an impact:
“It is a real shame for Dows. He is very important to us because of his leadership and ability to cover three positions in the back row. I am delighted for Tank [Waldrom], though.
“Out of Phil’s disappointment comes Thomas’ chance to play again like he did the other day, when I thought he was outstanding. He can come off the bench and change the game.
“That is where we are as a group now –we just throw guys in because they are good enough and we back them.”
Returning to Johannesburg for the first time since guiding the British Lions to a final Test win over the Springboks in 2009, Rowntree finished by reminiscing about that day and outlining the experience in store for the visitors.
“The last time I was here was very special – we won the third Test in a Lions series. We had lost the previous two in disappointing circumstances so that game meant everything to us.
“Coming back here brings back those memories but, like last week, this is a chance for young players to experience playing in the best stadiums in the world.
“[South Africa] have a good record here and this is an intimidating place but I think the lads will thrive on that tomorrow.”