Straeuli rides out storm and plans to surprise Woodward

Rudolf Straeuli and his Springboks, lambasted from Pretoria to Port Elizabeth via Pietermaritzburg and Paarl following record defeats in France and Scotland, have reached for the self-help videos in an effort to piece together a few fragments of confidence before this weekend's visit to Twickenham. Some of the relevant titles – "How Not To Be The Worst South African Team In History" and "How To Scrummage With Props Who Cannot Punch Their Way Out Of A Wet Paper Bag" – are not yet on the market, so they are making do with some old England footage.

"England are one of the top teams, and the best in the world when they are playing in London," conceded Straeuli, the former World Cup-winning No 8 who succeeded Harry Viljoen as national coach in April. "But they are vulnerable in certain areas. If they were not vulnerable, they would not have lost in Paris earlier this year, or in Dublin last October, or at Murrayfield in 2000. Clive Woodward has achieved a good deal with this team, but these things must be kept in perspective."

He was not at all eager to discuss England – or any other subject, as a matter of fact – and left yesterday's gathering in Kensington with the expression of a man preparing to look inwards, ask some hard questions of himself and his team, and come out fighting. Springbok pride, which runs unfathomably deeper than most other varieties, has been more than wounded over the 10 days: it has been insulted. Straeuli may not expect to end England's 17-match home winning streak on Saturday, but he certainly plans to make them sit up and take notice.

Not that he has much room for manoeuvre on the selection front. Some of his most potent forces – Bobby Skinstad, Rassie Erasmus, Victor Matfield and the reinvigorated Os du Randt – are back home in the Republic, while others – Andre Vos, Andre Venter, Mark Andrews and Robbie Kempson – have voluntarily entered the post-international phase of their careers. Of the current tourists, the powerful prop from Johannesburg, Lawrence Sephaka, is out of the running through injury, and there are continuing doubts surrounding the fitness of the brilliant Western Province centre, Marius Joubert.

"Every Test match is important: the South African public expects victory in each game, as do the Springbok players and management," said the coach. "But it is important to look at the bigger picture. We are a year from the World Cup in Australia, and we must play our most important game against England – more important than this one – in the pool phase of that tournament. Will England be playing as they are now in 12 months' time, away from home? Can they improve? I know what we have back home in terms of ability, the store we have in the bank. I can tell you that I have been much lower in my life than I am at this moment."

Straeuli is unlikely to name his side before tomorrow, not least because he is awaiting a dependable weather forecast for the weekend. Many of his sharpest operators – Brent Russell, Werner Greef, Bolla Conradie, Andre Pretorius – first caught the eye in Tri-Nations rugby last summer, but it is devilishly difficult to play that style of adventurous, fast-handling rugby in heavy European conditions. The All Blacks managed it at Twickenham a week last Saturday, but their back line was awash with experience.

Woodward will name his side today. With Trevor Woodman, the Gloucester prop, struggling with the neck problems that forced him out of the Australia fixture, Jason Leonard, the 34-year-old Harlequin, has every chance of making a 99th England appearance. If he plays, his personal collection of caps will be comfortably greater than that belonging to the entire Springbok pack, which tells you something about the tourists' know-how, or lack of it.

"At Murrayfield on Saturday, Joe van Niekerk was our fifth most experienced player – and he is 21," said Straeuli. "But how do young players get the necessary experience without being given the opportunity to play?" If the Bokke coach can square that circle by the weekend, he will be worth his considerable weight in Krugerrands.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable