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Rugby | Springboks

England's tactical switch won't scare Boks

There was one common theme adopted by teams when they had to face Heyneke Meyer’s Bulls side at Super Rugby level.

You’d hear almost every coach begin with the theory of meeting the physical challenge head on, before talking about “moving the big pack around field” and “spreading the ball”.

Not surprisingly, few sides ever managed to do it correctly against Meyer’s teams, mainly because they lost the collision points that Meyer is so keen to exploit on the field.

That is why it isn’t surprising now to hear that England will employ different tactics for the Coca-Cola Park second test after failing to win the physical battle on Saturday.

Stuart Lancaster’s side have to split their focus this week on their first midweek test, but a large expected victory should buoy them enough ahead of the Johannesburg game.

And on a hard field, and at altitude, the scene has been set for a more physical, intense and open game, with the English believing if they spread the ball more they may have a better chance against these Boks.

They may also, however, have little choice, having lost their midfield rock in Brad Barritt, who will undergo an eye operation and miss the second test.

The loss of Barritt may force a midfield shift as well as a shift in focus, to ensure they use the ball they get more effectively and test the Bok backline more on defence.

England looked a lot more dangerous when they did that on Saturday and they believe it will be their best chance against a Springbok side that will only get more physical this week.

With Barritt gone, there is a general school of thought that Toby Flood moving into flyhalf with Farrell possibly at 12, or alternatively bring Manu Tuilagi inside with either Jordan Turner-Hall or Anthony Allen getting a run on the outside.

When Lancaster and co name their team for the Kimberley jaunt, it will be more apparent what they plan for Saturday, but clearly a more attacking minded set is what they plan.

Backline coach Mike Catt admitted as much after the game, saying they needed to get the go-forward they needed to launch the attacks out wide.

"At the start of the second half we just didn't get any momentum, that go-forward we had in the first half,” Catt said, “"That is a little bit disappointing and something we can look at.

"We will address it with the boys and let's make sure we don't put ourselves in those situations again.

"With the attacking options we have got we would have liked to have had more ball in hand and I think that is something we have got to look at - why aren't they getting more ball."

England’s best period of attack came in the first half, twice when they launched attacks out wide, as well as a beautiful chip by Farrell which easily could have bounced differently and caused a lot more problems for the Boks.

And the way they ended the match, although making the scoreline flattering, will give them enough heart to know they can breach the Bok defence.

But first they will need to ensure themselves quality ball against a Bok pack which will arrive at Coca-Cola Park intent on being more ruthless than in Durban.

It will bring a smile to Heyneke Meyer’s face though to hear of the change of tactics. After all, he has heard this all before.

Teams have often tried to run his sides off the park, only to tire out or fail to breach the defence.

England have the look of a side searching for answers. They showed enough in Durban to show they can be more than competitive if they get it right.

But against a physical Bok side at altitude, they have chosen possibly the toughest arena to try and do it in.


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