The talking points ahead of England’s must-win match in South Africa
Eddie Jones and his men have plenty to do if they are to end their losing run.
England opened their series against South Africa with a 42-39 defeat at Ellis Park that elevates Saturday’s second Test into a must-win encounter.
Here Press Association Sport’s Duncan Bech examines five talking points leading into the Bloemfontein showdown.
England coach Eddie Jones knows the significance of victory in the second Test (Adam Davy/PA).
Eddie Jones has billed the second Test as a dry run for the World Cup semi-finals at Japan 2019 – win and England reach the final, lose and they are heading home. Either way the climax to the series in Cape Town next weekend must be played, but a seventh successive defeat including last month’s non-cap international against the Barbarians would make the outcome at Newlands irrelevant.
Webb Ellis contenders?
Eddie Jones’ wants his team to be world number one as they challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup (Anthony Devlin/PA).
Jones’ stated aim is to arrive in Japan as the sport’s number one team, but that ambition is beginning to look more unrealistic with each passing week. Conceding the series to a new-look Springboks side full of rookies and led by a new coach and captain would be a significant setback on the road to the World Cup, with only 12 matches to go until the global showpiece begins.
Chris Robshaw misses out in Bloemfontein (Gareth Fuller/PA).
Chris Robshaw has been dropped for the first time in an international career spanning 65 caps, his post-NatWest 6 Six Nations slump giving Brad Shields his full debut at blindside flanker. On form it is a reasonable decision as Robshaw is stuck in a rut, but he has been a loyal servant to the Australian and his predecessor Stuart Lancaster – and no one expected Kiwi convert Shields to be starting an England Test quite so soon.
England’s Owen Farrell has time to make the captain’s role his own (Paul Harding/PA).
A picture is emerging of a team that is being overhauled as the World Cup approaches. Jones insists Robshaw will challenge again, but he has joined Dan Cole and James Haskell in being absent for all or part of a series that the head coach insists is a key plank in his building for Japan. And Dylan Hartley remains at home due to a concussion-enforced lay-off knowing that his grip on the captaincy has loosened as Owen Farrell is given time to adapt to the post.
Sale’s Faf De Klerk can point the way for South Africa (Martin Rickett/PA).
If England are to take the series to a a decider then they must shackle South Africa dynamo Faf de Klerk, the diminutive Sale scrum-half who set Ellis Park alight with his running and vision. Maro Itoje was assigned the task of rattling De Klerk but he failed miserably and England enter the second Test knowing that his space and time has to be limited if he is to be contained.