England vs South Africa: Autumn international match preview

A look ahead to this weekend’s autumn international at Twickenham

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The Independent Online

Both teams head into the showdown at Twickenham off the back of disappointing defeats last weekend, and it’s almost a case of make-or-break for England and South Africa in terms of their autumn international program.

England were in the lead at half-time against New Zealand at HQ, but they were simply unable to cope with the pace and power of the All Blacks when they hit the throttle, and the final 21-24 result flattered the hosts given they were a clear second best after the break.

Stuart Lancaster has decided against wholesale changes for their second of four matches, with Semesa Rokoduguni ruled out through a hip injury after making his debut for England last weekend. In his place comes his Bath team-mate Anthony Watson, who will be making his first start in the red rose having come off the bench for his debut against the Kiwis as well.

It means that Danny Care and Owen Farrell are given another run-out together at half-back, despite Lancaster openly criticising their failure to kick England to safety when penned back in their own territory. George Ford has been pushing for claims to start against the Springboks, but Kyle Eastmond’s recovery from illness means Farrell will remain at fly-half and not switch to inside centre to accommodate Ford.

 

The Springboks arrive in London having experienced a shock-yet-convincing defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday. South Africa uncharacteristically leaked two tries to the Irish, and despite scoring two of their own through Marcell Coetzee and JP Pietersen, the boot of Jonathan Sexton ensured that a 29-15 results reflected the game.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has not been so forgiving and makes five changes to his side. Pietersen comes in on the wing to start for Cornal Hendricks, while both half-backs are replaced with Francois Hougaaard and Handre Pollard dropping to the bench in favour of Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie. In the pack, Adriaan Strauss starts at hooker despite his yellow card last week with Bismarck du Plessis missing out, and veteran Schalk Burger starts at blindside for his 74th cap as he is preferred to Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje.

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Strauss was shown a yellow card against Ireland but starts against England

STARTS:

Saturday, 2.30pm.

STATS:

England and South Africa have met 36 times between 1906 and 2012. England have won 12, lost 22 and drawn two.

England's record victory in the fixture is a 53-3 (+50) win at Twickenham in 2002. Their record defeat is a 58-10 (-48) loss in Bloemfontein in 2007.

England have not beaten South Africa in 11 matches dating back to 2006, with their best performance a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth two years ago.

England's starting XV have 374 caps compared to South Africa's 778.

England's record against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia under head coach Stuart Lancaster is played 12, lost nine, won two, drawn one.

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South Africa remain the only team Lancaster is yet to beat

England have lost their last four matches - all to New Zealand. The last time they lost five in a row was in 2006. That year they lost seven in a row.

Hooker Dylan Hartley is England's most capped player with 58, followed by scrum-half Danny Care, who will be making his 50th Test appearance.

Second row Victor Matfield will extend his record as the most capped South African in history to 118 Tests and is oldest Springbok ever at 37 years old.

PAST THREE MEETINGS:

England 15 South Africa 16 (Alberts) 24 November 2012, autumn internationals.

South Africa 14 (Pietersen) England 14 (Care), 23 June 2012, summer tour.

South Africa 36 (Alberts, B du Plessis, Hougaard, Pietersen) England 27 (Flood, Youngs 2), 16 June 2012, summer tour.

ODDS:

England – 1.72

South Africa – 2.15

Draw – 17

TV: Sky Sports 2 at 2.30pm, highlights on BBC3 at 7.30pm.

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