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.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness