At any rate this is how Jack Rowell, the England manager, would like it to be seen. He says there is not enough pre-Test rugby to allow him the luxury of mixing and matching, and it was as early as last Friday that he signalled his intention for Durban by selecting an obvious second string for the game against Orange Free State.
Moreover, nothing much that happened in the conclusive defeat in Bloemfontein will have shaken Rowell's evident belief in those who
impressed him in defeating the Welsh. Yesterday the manager conceded that already only two or three places for the Tests on 4 and 11 June, and even the Transvaal game a week tomorrow, remained in contention.
Even though the Test team have not yet played a game here, this is perfect stability compared with the South
Africans, who have so many doubts caused by injuries and straightforward selectorial
indecision that they have named a squad of 39 for Monday's training in Pretoria.
Francois Pienaar, the captain, and Tiaan Strauss, the vice-captain, are included though both are injured. The unwieldiness of the selection is explained by the necessity of selecting a South African A side for England's visit to Kimberley on 31 May. Natal are able to field 10 of the 39 and, even without the injured wing James Small and the discarded scrum-half Robert du Preez, seven Springboks.
England's own, more modest injury list no longer
includes Brian Moore, who withdrew from the bench for the Free State match because of a tight hamstring but took a full part in yesterday's vigorous session in Bloemfontein. An ankle injury meant Adedayo Adebayo's non-participation. Mike Catt (shoulder) and Damian Hopley (cut eyebrow) were excused physical contact.
More alarming was the sight of David Pears flat on his back with his suspect right hamstring put on ice. He insisted he would be fit to take his place at full-back in Durban but Pears has had so many and varied injuries over the past two seasons that one never knows. He is the exception in tomorrow's team in not having played against Wales.
The most urgent feature of England's practice yesterday was the line-out, a calamitous failure in the Free State
defeat when the second string began by failing to satisfy the referee and then compounded the felony by carrying on regardless. They might just as well have let Free State win the ball without challenge.
'They have a South African way of line-outing,' Rowell said ruefully. This is not a reference to the local penchant for brazen lifting but rather the unwillingness of Pierre Lombard and, Rowell fears, the referee tomorrow, Marius Franken, to sanction anything that resembles a contest when England are the non-throwing side.
ENGLAND (v Natal, Durban, tomorrow): D Pears (Harlequins); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), P de Glanville (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (both Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), N Redman (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton), D Richards (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: D Hopley (Wasps), S Barnes (Bath), S Bates (Wasps), G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe, S Ojomoh (Bath).
NATAL: A Joubert; C van der Westhuizen, D Muir, P Muller, J Enslin; H Honiball, K Putt; G Kebble, J Allan, A Garvey, S Atherton, M Andrews, W Bartmann (capt), G Teichmann, A Blakeway. Replacements: R du Preez, A Marinos, L Smith, H Tromp, D Morkel, J Plumtree.
SOUTH AFRICA TRAINING SQUAD (for Tests v England on 4 and 11 June and South African A v England, Kimberley, 31 May): Full-backs: T van Rensburg, C Dirks (both Transvaal), A Joubert (Natal). Wings: C Williams (Western Province), C van der Westhuizen, J Small (both Natal), C Badenhorst (Orange Free State), S Berridge (Western Province). Centres: B Venter (Orange Free State), P Muller (Natal), F Meiring (Northern Transvaal), J Mulder (Transvaal). Outside-halves: H Honiball (Natal), H le Roux (Transvaal), J Stransky (Western Province). Scrum- halves: J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal), J Roux (Transvaal). Props: G Kebble (Natal), O le Roux (Orange Free State), B Swart, J le Roux (both Transvaal). Hookers: J Allan (Natal), A Paterson (Western Province). Locks: K Wiese (Transvaal), M Andrews, S Atherton (both Natal), K Otto (Northern Transvaal), B Els (Orange Free State), H Strydom (Western Province). Flankers: R Kruger (Northern Transvaal), A Venter (Orange Free State), W Bartmann (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal), I McDonald (Northern Transvaal), F van Heerden, F Smit (both Western Province); No 8s: A Richter (Northern Transvaal), G Teichmann (Natal), T Strauss (Western Province).Reuse content