England v South Africa; Springboks may underestimate us says Richard Cockerill

Bevan Rodd
Rodd, centre, is being handed the ultimate examination for a Test front row on just his second cap
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 20 November Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Coverage: Follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Forwards coach Richard Cockerill has warned South Africa that England have full faith in the inexperienced front row being sent into battle at Twickenham on Saturday.

Loose-head prop Bevan Rodd and hooker Jamie Blamire, 21 and 23 respectively, have just five caps between them.

“If South Africa think we have a weakness in the pack that’s up to them. We certainly don’t,” said Cockerill.

“There are a couple of young guys in that front row who are relishing it.”

Cockerill admitted that it will be sternest possible test for the two prospects however, taking on the world champions who have long based their game around a bullying set of forwards.

“Physically, from a scrum and set piece point of view, there is not a harder team to play against in the world at the moment,” he added.

“I don’t think it is a challenge we will shy away from. We will fire our own bullets, and play how we want to play, but certainly there are always points in the game where you have to match the opposition physically.”

Graphic showing England and South Africa caps and front row average weight

It is the teams’ first meeting since South Africa’s 32-12 victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and some comments from the Springbok camp in the wake of their triumph have stung English pride.

Flanker Pieter Steph du Toit claimed that England were “afraid” of South Africa’s physicality in the game, while captain Siya Kolisi said that he was confident of victory even at the coin toss, detecting England skipper Owen Farrell was unsettled by his side’s late arrival at Yokohama Stadium.

In his own autobiography England coach Eddie Jones admitted that South Africa “really hammered us in the set-piece”external-link and that he should have picked Joe Marler, perhaps England’s best scrummager, from the start.

Marler is once again on the bench on Saturday. The 31-year-old only re-joined the squad on Thursday night following a 10-day isolation period after contracting Covid. With Marler’s training restricted, Rodd instead starts and will win his second cap – his first coming in last weekend’s win over Australia.

Marler said the quality and depth of front-row talent in a South Africa squad made the match special for any prop.

“With Springbok front-rowers, their scrummaging and their passion for it, it is very much fight or flight and I run towards the fight side of it,” he said.

“I love it. All six of them – even their third string – are arguably all world-class operators, I want to test myself against the best and in the hottest environment so I am really excited about it.”

Jones should revive 2015 Bok-busting gameplan – Brits

Japan beat South Africa
Japan’s pool-stage victory over South Africa in Brighton in 2015 was masterminded by Eddie Jones

Former Springboks and Saracens hooker Schalk Brits believes England’s raw front row should prompt Jones to revive the gameplan that shocked South Africa and the world at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Jones was then head coach of a Japan team that pulled off the biggest shock in the tournament’s history, with a dramatic 34-32 win in Brighton.

“In 2015 we thought we were going to dominate Japan scrum-wise and Eddie came up with a really clever plan to get the ball in and out really quickly,” Brits told 5 Live Rugby.

“I don’t think it will be any different on Saturday.

“Marcus Smith is an unbelievable rugby player and what England can also do is try to speed up the game and keep the ball in play as long as possible to get the big South Africans running around.

“They can try and wear them down that way.”

Brits, who was also part of the South Africa squad that won the Rugby World Cup in 2019, described the banning of South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus as a “gift” in terms of motivating his former team-mates for the final match of their season.

“It will feed that ‘stuff you’ mentality and make the players more determined to show what they can do.

“Rassie is an integral part of the fibre of this South African side and I think they will make it extremely personal this weekend.”

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