Sat, Jun 02, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Springboks look for confidence boost against England

AFP , PRETORIA

South Africa will look to further boost their confidence ahead of this year's more important assignments -- the Tri-Nations and World Cup -- when they meet England at Loftus Versfeld today.

The South Africans won the first Test in Bloemfontein 58-10 a week ago and go into the second Test knowing expectations are high for a repeat performance.

And everything suggests Jake White's Springboks will match the record score achieved in Bloemfontein, if not better it.

The tourists, already missing several key players who were not included in the touring party because of their involvement in the European Cup final two weeks ago, have had a miserable time of it in South Africa with a number of players picking up injuries before or during the first Test and others going down with stomach flu.

Iain Balshaw, Andy Hazell and Nick Wood were ruled out of the second Test because of injury, while David Strettle, Mike Brown, James Simpson-Daniel and Andy Farrell couldn't be considered because of illness.

There are also still concerns about the fitness of veterans, captain Jason Robinson and flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, who picked up injuries last weekend.

Outside backs Nick Abendanon and Topsy Ojo were called up to the squad on Wednesday as England boss Brian Ashton has seemingly run out of available players to take the field today.

Despite Ashton putting on a brave face to the media this week, he must know he's on a hiding to nothing against the Boks.

"We've trained well and we're all still upbeat," Ashton said. "There's still a positive attitude and energy in the camp and there's a lot of enthusiasm."

But no matter how positive the young England players are, they're up against a South African team that is almost at full-strength and full of confidence following their success in the Super 14 competition and their win in Bloemfontein.

Whereas Ashton was only in a position to name his side yesterday, Springbok coach Jake White named his team on Wednesday, despite a few of his players suffering colds this week.

The Boks are a fairly settled unit and they've got plenty of depth as the selections for the second Test show.

White has made just three changes to his starting line up, bringing in the younger and more mobile prop forwards C.J. van der Linde and Gurthro Steenkamp in place of B.J. Botha (shoulder injury) and Deon Carstens, who moves to the bench, while at the back Akona Ndungane gets a game on his home ground, in place of Ashwin Willemse, who also moves to the bench.

Scrummaging was the one area where the Boks battled in Bloemfontein and White is hoping a change to the front row will ensure a better foundation in the set pieces.

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