How will the Springboks play against England?

Eben Etzebeth could still be out with injury come June
Eben Etzebeth could still be out with injury come June

How will the Springboks play against England?

England will have received and taken the lessons from their previous losses to Scotland (25-13) and France (22-16), however the Sharks Super Rugby Franchise delivered another very strong warning sign to England this week when they thumped New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders 38-12 in Durban. The Sharks physically outmuscled the Highlanders with their enormously physical forward pack before turning on their skill to score 5 tries to 2. 

England selected their squad this week, and it will take a special effort to beat new coach Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks on home soil. This is a mouth-watering prospect, and should be an epic three match Test Series.


The Springboks will play quickly but they will be aiming to balance a power and speed game. The Boks will select a physical yet mobile pack, especially as the fixtures will take place at Ellis Park, the Free State Stadium and at Newlands. Two of the three fixtures are on the Highveld and the pitches will be quick, hard and (weather permitting) dry. England will need to defend very well as the Boks have plenty of ball players with real skill going around in Super Rugby.

  • The Boks will move the point of contact, and will play quickly. 
  • The Boks will play a rather large back row that can win physical contact, as well as being mobile. 
  • The Boks will aim to dominate the gain line, by using formidable ball carriers and very quick ruck ball. (The Boks will also bash narrow at times in an attempt to dominate the gain line and create space out wide.)
  • With Pollard in great form, expect Boks to play flatter, and be more direct on attack than they have been for the last couple of years.
  • Expect the strike runners and playmakers to come into their own from any loose kicks, or when space has been created. (There will be more variety in Bok attack.)
  • It also goes without saying that the Boks will maul.


Jacques Nienaber is a brilliant defensive coach, and has a watertight defensive system. The defensive system encourages gang tackling. Defenders tackle the ball, which tends to slow ball enough for recalibration of the impervious defensive alignment. This type of tackling, and defense makes turning over ball, and competing at breakdown more difficult.

  • The Boks will adopt a relatively quick linespeed, using Jacques Nienaber’s watertight defensive system. 
  • The Boks will use gang tackles to stop gainline success, slow down ball and allow time to recalibrate their defense.
  • The Boks will only compete when turnovers are very likely.  

Check out this example of Jacques Nienaber’s defence in full operation at the Stormers.


The Springboks’ kicking game is not as strong as they would want. The Boks lack a world class scrumhalf, and might struggle to win territorial game.

  • Use contestable box kicks to clear, as well as test the England backs. (I believe the Springboks will select Ross Cronje for this reason.)
  • The Boks will kick long, and back their defence as much as possible.

Finally, expect South Africa to take the ball through many phases on attack. If the Boks can control the ball, and stay patient England will be in for an immense physical battle. The attack will come in waves, but this England team have shown in Australia that they are more than capable of fronting up to physical challenges. If England can hold out against Boks’ power game, there will be opportunities to strike. I have no doubt that if these opportunities arise, Eddie Jones’s England will cash in. 

Either way, this series is going to be an absolute cracker, a classic.

What do you think?