The upcoming England v South Africa rugby tour, too, takes on even greater importance given the proximity to next year’s Rugby World Cup. The question is then; can England beat South Africa and bolster their hopes ahead of next year’s tournament or will Springbok rugby reign supreme?
SA Rugby – Recent Form
The South African rugby team has undergone something of a transition period after finishing third in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. A number of key players who’d represented the side for many years have since left the fray and newer South African rugby players are trying to establish themselves in their place.
It is perhaps not too surprising, then, that recent South Africa rugby results have been a picture of inconsistency. In the most recent Rugby Championship, which took place last year, South Africa won two, drew two and lost two of their six matches. Those results were only good enough for third spot in the tournament but in truth, the Springboks were not far from achieving better.
Both of South Africa’s draws came against Australia, who finished narrowly above them in the Championship table, and on home soil the Springboks succumbed by just one point to world champions New Zealand.
South Africa, therefore, would have gone into their most recent autumn and winter internationals in the northern hemisphere with a fair amount of hope. Results in those games, though, were patchy at best. A thumping victory over Italy in Padova and a nerve-shredding 18-17 triumph over France in Paris, were accompanied by a significant reverse against Ireland and a close 24-22 defeat to Wales.
Just last weekend, South Africa lost by two points once again to the Welsh in a game held in Washington, DC. That match, however, essentially featured an under-strength Springboks line-up which perhaps would not have been expected to push their opponents so close.
Whilst the South African rugby team have been hard to predict of late, then, there have certainly been enough signs to suggest that they will provide stiff resistance when England face them in their own backyard.
Eng Rugby – Recent FormIf South Africa rugby has gone through a transition period since the last World Cup, England have been embarking on a complete rebuild. After being humbled on home soil in 2015, England drafted in former Japan coach Eddie Jones and tasked him with reviving their fortunes.
The appointment of Jones appeared to have been a master stroke, with England winning 25 of their first 26 matches under the Australian coach’s guidance. That run came to a shuddering halt during this year’s Six Nations, however, and an altogether different sequence of form has befallen the team since.
Since being roundly outplayed by a largely unfancied Scotland side in their third game of the 2018 Six Nations, England have gone on to also lose their next three test matches in a row. The third of that unwanted trio of results arrived in the team’s warm-up game for the Eng v SA tour against the Barbarians, and was a particularly chastening afternoon for the side.
Woeful defence from England allowed the Baa-Baas to score an astonishing 63 points at Twickenham, and England outcast Chris Ashton to notch three tries against his home nation. A similar performance against South Africa this summer will surely lead to even greater ignominy for England.
England vs South Africa – Key Players
Recent form has hardly been spotless for either side ahead of the England South Africa series, then, but both teams do have some key players who’ve been putting in some impressive individual performances.
The new era in Springbok rugby is set to be led by flanker Siya Kolisi, who has recently been named captain for the three England v South Africa tests. The powerful player has been becoming increasingly consistent in his performances in a Springbok jersey and looks to have the character to raise his game still further in his new leadership position.
Springboks’ centre Jesse Kriel, too, has been delivering more and more often on the international stage of late. The speedy and physical back scored a couple of tries over the winter and was impressive once again against Wales in Washington.
Whilst many England fans might gloomily tell you that there’s been nothing positive in their side’s recent performances, there have been a couple of players who’ve stood out for the right reasons. Promoted to captaincy for the South Africa tour, Owen Farrell has shown flashes of brilliance in England’s midfield of late and remains a wonderfully reliable kicker.
Speaking of kicking, Elliot Daly’s long-range penalties have added an extra dimension to England’s play and are a nice added extra on top of the winger’s pace and finishing abilities.
Whilst neither side can claim to be strong favourites for the upcoming series, then, both England and South Africa will surely be hopeful that they can come out on top. All that rugby fans can do, therefore, is to sit back and enjoy the action.
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