Rugby Union: Troubled England travelling down a rough track: Going gets tougher as desperate tourists look for a win against a Western Transvaal side who are anything but a pushover

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The Independent Online
IT TOOK one match, the defeat in Bloemfontein, for the utopian twin concepts of 'investment' and 'development' - euphemisms for England coming to South Africa with clearly delineated first and second teams - to be undermined and then abandoned.

These have been among the managerial buzz-words of the tour but, by their selection for today's match against Western Transvaal, the management have betrayed their conclusion that some of those who travelled hopefully a fortnight ago cannot, on arrival, cope.

England are so desperate for a win in the intimidatingly wild- west setting of Potchefstroom that, to this end, they are prepared to leave three of their supposedly likely lads, Adebayo, Poole and Dallaglio, idle. It had better work, because from here the midweek rugby will get only harder for the excluded threesome.

As, indeed, will the weekend stuff for the Test candidates, because after today's day-trip to Potch, England will have to prepare themselves for the Currie Cup holders, Transvaal, in Johannesburg, where they will be faced by nine full Springboks including, so he unexpectedly expects, Francois Pienaar, South Africa's captain.

This is a match that threatens an even more evil consequence than last Saturday's against Natal, the idea of softening up the English in preparation for the Springboks having acquired a steadily increasing popularity. Pienaar, the flaxen-haired flanker who succeeded Naas Botha, needs to prove his recovery from an ankle injury if he is to make the first Test on Saturday week.

The Golden Lions, as they have called themselves for the past couple of years, have an unlikely Welsh connection. Balie Swart, the prospective Springbok loose- head prop, is well-remembered in the valleys from his days as an Ebbw Vale player and everywhere else because he has a suspension for drug-taking against his name.

A still more exotic connection is that of the Transvaal No 8, Rudolf Straeuli, with Penarth of all places. When Rudi was playing there a decade ago, the perennial whipping- boys were even capable of beating Swansea by 20 points.

Meanwhile, England should start worrying about the Mieleboere, a reference to Western Transvaal's farming tradition even though most of the team are either students at or alumni of Potchefstroom's university. No Springboks here, but they regularly finish top of the Currie Cup's B section, making this the next-best union in the country after the familiar big six.

The England party finally left the lotus-land of Durban yesterday and though they are now based in the South African capital, they will not play any rugby here until the first Test. They are now regretting their decision not to take what they perceived to be a possible extra security risk in Johannesburg and instead will spend much of the next few days on the road.

Tomorrow they wish to train at Ellis Park, which means a hop of 40 miles into Johannesburg before returning to Pretoria and then back to Johannesburg for an evening function. And to begin with, today's round-trip to Potch is more than 200 miles.

Western Transvaal: J Blaauw; A Vermeulen, D Swart, J van Wyk, D Basson; E Hare (capt), A Pretorius; E Grobler, L Boshoff, M Proudfoot, P Oosthuizen, P Herbst, A Kriek, S Bekker, M van Greunen.

ENGLAND: P Hull (Bristol); D Hopley (Wasps), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), S Potter, T Underwood (Leicester); S Barnes (Bath), S Bates (Wasps); G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe, J Mallett, N Redman (Bath), M Bayfield (Northampton), D Ryan (Wasps), S Ojomoh, B Clarke (Bath).

Referee: N Heilbron (Cape Town).

Transvaal (v England, Johannesburg, Saturday): T van Rensburg; J Louw, C Scholtz, J Mulder, P Hendriks; H le Roux, J Roux; B Swart, J Dalton, J le Roux, K Wiese, H Strydom, I Macdonald, R Straeuli, F Pienaar (capt).

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