Lewis Moody: My heart says England but my head says the Springboks

Moody views: South Africa largely stick to what they know: they carry the ballhard,they test your willand soul in defence

Rugby is a religion in South Africa. You walk down the street in any town and there are flags and shirts in the windows, be it the dentist or the butchers. It is the national sport and the people get very passionate about it. The pressure on the players to perform is huge and that is one of the reasons why it is such a difficult place for tourists to play.

South Africa's new coach Heyneke Meyer coached me at Leicester for a short time. Unfortunately he had to leave for family reasons but not before giving me an insight into how they operate. They are very reliant on patterns. The pitch was broken down into three sections: the exit area between the try line and your own 22, the attacking zone between the 22s, and the red zone between the opposition 22 and the try line. Each zone had its own patterns that he religiously battered into you, hours and hours on the training field going over the routines.

You always know what you are going to get but that does not make it any easier to deal with. Though they have great broken-field runners like Bryan Habana and J B Pietersen, they largely stick to what they know and do it very well. They carry the ball hard, they test your will, your soul in defence to see if you have the mettle to stand up to them. They breed their rugby players very big in South Africa; Bakkies Botha, Os du Randt and Victor Matfield are just three examples I recall from personal experience, huge arms, huge chests, huge everything.

Yes, they are only human. You tackle them hard, they fall over. But they do create huge specimens and the physical side of the game is such a big part of their identity. Personally I loved playing against them, though I only managed it once on South African soil. You came off the field having been tested completely, physically and mentally, in every department. If you had won you knew that you had earned it. Of course that was the case against Australia and New Zealand, too, but those challenges manifested themselves in different ways.

Australia were well drilled in the front five but relied very heavily on a very skilful, very elusive back line. New Zealand have a general, all-round game. They have physical forwards and cover the basics well at the scrum, the lineout, ruck and maul. They have big scavengers like Richie McCaw and talented backs. South Africa are more forward-oriented with a relentless, bash-bash style of rugby with high balls and long kicks.

From that point of view Owen Farrell can expect a lot of attention. They will target the new caps, wanting to get into Joe Marler and Tom Johnson early to see if there is any mental weaknesses. Knowing Meyer as I do I know he will have done his homework on the new boys. They will know Marler has a bit of a temper on him. If he gets fired into he might react. They want to rile you, to antagonise you into a negative reaction. I don't doubt the boys will come through it but it will be a ferocious test.

In the past the northern hemisphere sides took weakened teams on the summer tours either because of injury or because clubs wanted to rest their key players prior to the start of a new season. That tide has turned now. Martin Johnson introduced midweek fixtures in 2010 with England down in Australia. For that you needed big squads. There was also the realisation that a win in these matches gives you a huge confidence boost and momentum swings that you can take with you.

Just look at what Scotland did against Australia. What a win that was. I remember when we won in Australia before the 2003 World Cup. We took massive confidence from beating a quality side away from home. For this En gland team, especially being as young as it is, to show how good they are they really need to win away from home.

Injury to David Strettle has forced a change to the back three. I'm not an authority on that unit but I was slightly surprised to see Ben Foden moved to the wing for the first time to accommodate Mike Brown. He won't get as much ball but he is a determined, strong man and whoever he comes up against he is going to make life difficult. More of a worry, if that is the right word, is how Brown will cope in this environment, knowing South Africa's penchant for the high ball. He has a feisty temperament and has been known to lose his head every now and again. I thought Ugo Monye might be given an opportunity. He had a phenomenal Premiership final. But these are the decisions an international coach has to make and, to be fair, Brown has had an outstanding two seasons.

I'm sure all the players will relish the challenge. They will understand a lot more about themselves when they step out in Durban. In my heart, England win. With the Boks playing two uncapped guys in the second row there is a possibility they could disrupt them and get home by five points. South Africa have not had a tough match for a couple of months so if England are going to do it, this is the match. On the other hand they are up against a team boasting 458 caps so my head says South Africa by seven.

Maintaining momentum is Lancaster's big challenge

In his first campaign, Stuart Lancaster set himself very high standards. He introduced some fresh faces, which really excited everyone. To have that injection of enthusiasm was just what was needed.

When Ben Foden, Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi and the like came through it gave me a real buzz and you feed off that energy. I have enjoyed what Stuart and the coaches have created. They have developed an environment in which young players can thrive. The challenge now is keeping that going over the next few years.

We all want great success for England, but in any cycle for any team there are ups and downs. And it is how you deal with them that will determine how far this team goes. I have never been coached by Stuart, but I was pleased that the RFU went with an English coach. In an international set-up I feel that the team fully benefits when the coach understands and has experienced the country's culture, lifestyle and language.

Stuart has shown that you don't have to be a big name, you just have to be the right person. He is hungry and has thrown everything at it. The next couple of seasons will be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going.

I don't miss Botha's boot

I have found commentating on the big games quite tough. You see the euphoria on the faces of the winners. You remember what goes into it, the highs and lows, the successes.

Having said that I know that my body is much more appreciative of the match-day experience as a pundit, in comparison to being cleared out of a ruck by the likes of Bakkies Botha.

The toughest opponent I faced, Botha would come steaming in to clear the ruck and wind me with his knee, head, shoulder, anything really.

He nailed me once in a ruck at Twickenham. I remember jumping up and getting right in his face.

He was slightly taken aback, all 6ft 7in and 25st of him. There was a mo ment of mutual respect when this skinny lad dared to stand up to him, but I could see he was surprised.

Lewis Moody is a Tag Heuer ambassador, Tag Heuer are the official watch of England Rugby


Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little