England assistant coach Andy Farrell has urged the team to summon the spirit of Port Elizabeth when they face South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
This year’s England tour of South Africa saw them lose the first two Tests before they concluded the series with a creditable 18-18 draw in Port Elizabeth in June.
England will need to show similar resilience against the Springboks this weekend when they search for their first win against one of the “big three” — South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — under coach Stuart Lancaster.
Their record so far stands at one win from four Tests, following last week’s disappointing 20-14 loss to an injury-hit Australia at Twickenham.
South Africa, by contrast, head into the match on the back of a 21-10 win over Scotland at Murrayfield, which followed their 16-12 defeat of Ireland in Dublin.
“We’ve got to remind the team of Port Elizabeth,” Farrell, a former dual-code international, said on Tuesday. “In that game we took our defensive game to them and that is how it has got to be this weekend.”
“There was a fighting spirit in that game. It shone out massively, you could see our intent to not let South Africa do what they do best, which is batter the gainline door down,” he said.
If England were frustrated by a draw, the Springboks were furious at failing to complete a clean sweep.
“The South Africans were pretty annoyed to draw that game,” Farrell said. “They realized we were good that day, we got among them and got stuck in and I’m sure they will pick a team to combat that.”
“South Africa have a way of playing, they don’t change much and they have some big boys, but they will have a few intricacies. You have to expect the unexpected,” he said. “With any top-tier team you have to go and put pressure on the opposition.”
“We did that at times against Australia, but I thought Kurtley Beale and Berrick Barnes ran the show. They were inventive in what they did and you would expect to be broken down once or twice, but it was maybe once or twice too many times at the weekend,” Farrell added. “Our endeavor to defend our own line, especially in the first half, was outstanding so we need more of the same there.”
Meanwhile, England have dropped wing Charlie Sharples and loose forwards Thomas Waldron and Tom Johnson from their squad for Saturday’s Test.
The trio have paid the price for last weekend’s 20-14 loss to Australia, which meant England slipped to fifth place in the International Rugby Board rankings which will determine the seedings for the 2015 World Cup.
Prop Joe Marler will also miss Saturday’s match after straining medial ligaments in his knee.
Backrow forwards James Haskell and Ben Morgan have been included in the squad, while London Irish center Jonathan Joseph replaces Sharples.