Two new captains will be key, says Stuart Lancaster


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The Independent Online

England head coach Stuart Lancaster expects the roles of the two new captains to be crucial in the upcoming series against South Africa.

Chris Robshaw, who has made just six Test appearances, leads England overseas for the first time after impressing in this year's RBS 6 Nations.

The Springboks also have a new skipper following the retirement of John Smit but have turned to someone at the opposite end of the experience scale in 72-times capped flanker Jean de Villiers.

Lancaster said: "Jean de Villiers strikes me as a key player for South Africa.

"The primary thing for a captain is to earn your place in the side and there is no doubt he has done that, and he has done it well.

"He is clearly experienced, respected and has leadership qualities. It is a good appointment. I'm sure he will be very motivated to get things right.

"We have got a good captain in Chris Robshaw and I know the importance of good leadership in the team."

The series begins at Durban's Kings Park on Saturday before further Tests in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

England have won just three Tests in South Africa, most recently in 2000, and have lost their past seven clashes against the Springboks.

Having had longer preparation time than the opponents - who were still involved in domestic action last weekend - Lancaster knows the importance of hitting the ground running this weekend.

Lancaster said: "In a three-game series there is going to be a huge amount on the first Test.

"We have always been of the mindset you take one game at a time.

"We will deal with the first Test, and that won't lessen the impact of the second or third Test.

"We will review our performance and move on from there.

"It is all about performance and getting the win in the first Test, but equally we know South Africa is a formidable challenge.

"There are very few northern hemisphere sides who have ever come here and won. We recognise the challenge."