My guest blogger, South African Reenen Stenekamp, glances back at the Springbok victory at Ellis Park but his sights are firmly on the second, potential series-deciding test at Bloemfontein. Catch my next blog, 7 Reasons Wales beat Argentina, tomorrow evening!
OK, so the prediction was a nervous win for the Boks at Ellis Park. And nervous it was! No one could have foreseen England going 24-3 up in no time, and even more unpredictable was the South African comeback we witnessed. This is the nature of the sport; the unknown factor, players losing form, others stepping up. Supposedly nervous debutant wingers scoring tries, and a debutant lock forward going on a devastating 60-meter run. That is in the past now.
Looking ahead to the next test match in Bloemfontein, both teams will be casting a, perhaps nervous, eye at their respective defensive errors. Defence wins games and while this was clearly not the case in the first international, lightning does not strike the same place twice and the Free State Stadium will most probably see an improved defensive effort by both teams.
The unknown factor the Springboks brought to the game with their new coach, debutants and game plan, is now slightly less unknown. This is something Eddie Jones will tell his players in the build-up to another Highveld encounter. Jones said at the post-match press conference that while it takes ten days to acclimatize to the altitude, his team wasn’t affected by it. It certainly didn’t look like they ran out of air. Be that as it may, by the time the game kicks off on Saturday, they will have spent ten days at altitude. The Boks will tell themselves that they showed the kind of guts that hasn’t been seen in Green and Gold for years, which is of course true. They will tell themselves that they fed on the crowd support and that they will again do so this Saturday. This is also true, and even though chances are that it will again not be a sellout crowd, it should be a near-capacity turnout.
Both camps did not report any serious injuries, so the match day squads may well remain pretty much unchanged. Bok sizzlers Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen will be expected to turn out similar performances in order for South Africa to avoid taking it to a series decider in Cape Town. Whether they can pull this off twice in eight days remains to be seen. England will no doubt be aware that the expectations resting on these three players in question will be heavy. But Damian de Allende is due a big one, as is Handre Pollard. Tendai (Beast) Mtawarira had a quiet outing in Johannesburg so expect more from him too. Both teams were desperate for a positive result at Ellis Park. England didn’t get the result they wanted. They will be under even more pressure now. The Springboks edged out this one by a very narrow margin and they will know full well that it could just as well have gone the other way.
Strap yourselves in. It will be all out war in Bloemfontein.