ENGLAND enter today’s pivotal second Test against South Africa with orders to rise above recent results by playing with courage.
Head coach Eddie Jones’s men are seeking to end their five-match losing run when their series against the Springboks continues at Free State Stadium knowing that another defeat will render the tour a failure.
A 42-39 defeat after their collapse at Ellis Park has turned the trip to Bloemfontein into a must-win encounter as pressure builds on England.
“We never talk about playing with fear, we talk about playing with courage and conviction,” said scrum coach Neal Hatley.
“If it’s there to play we will. We want to be aggressive, we want to play with the ball in hand. We want to make attack a real focal point.
“If it’s on then we expect it to be played. We’ve got people like Owen Farrell and George Ford, guys who see the game very well.
Stopping de Klerk starts with stopping any momentum they get. We have to make sure that our pack stops their momentum,England scrum coach Neil Hatley
“We’ll need to be better this time because South Africa will be better. They’ve made a couple of changes that will help their set piece, so we expect them to be stronger there.
“It was a good comeback from them in Johannesburg so they’ll be confident and better for the extra week they’ve had.”
Free State Stadium was the home ground for South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus, who played for Free State for seven years before beginning his coaching career, while the 100th cap being won by Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira serves as further motivation for another Springbok win.
“There will be a number of reasons why they are hungry to win this game,” he said. “It’s ‘the Beast’s’ 100th game and Rassie’s first game at his old ground. They don’t lack incentives, but neither do we.”
South Africa’s main dangerman is electric Sale scrum-half Faf de Klerk and England know the importance of denying him the type of platform that gave him the freedom of Ellis Park a week ago.
“Stopping de Klerk starts with stopping any momentum they get. We have to make sure that our pack stops their momentum,” Hatley said.
“If he doesn’t have momentum then it’s very hard for him to generate the speed and tempo that he did for the middle part of the first Test. It’s not just about stopping Faf, it’s about stopping the people around him as well.”
Mtawarira believes his climb into the ranks of rugby’s centurions will be celebrated by the whole of Africa.
Mtawarira will become the sixth Springbok and the nation’s first black player to make 100 Test appearances in today’s clash.
The 32-year-old prop was born into an underprivileged background in Zimbabwe until his rugby talent was spotted, resulting in a scholarship being awarded at a top school in Harare.
He subsequently moved to South Africa and his international odyssey began upon qualifying for the Springboks after serving the required three years of residency.
“It’s really humbling. All over Africa people rally behind me and support me,” said Mtawarira, whose every touch of the ball is met with roars of ‘Beast’ from the crowd.
“From the very start when I was in Zimbabwe as a young boy I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be on this platform. It’s not just about me, it’s bigger than me.
“It’s about the whole of Africa, being a shining light and showing that you can make it no matter where you come from.
“That’s the biggest legacy I want to leave behind. There is a whole lot as a person that I’ve learned over the years. The game has been great to me and it changed my life.
“It’s pretty insane. I was going down memory lane in the last week just thinking about all those moments right in the beginning of my career.
“I remember coming to the Sharks academy as an eager young man just wanting to impress the coaches and get a spot in the Sharks’ team and that’s all I was thinking about at the time.”
It was not until Mtawarira moved from back to front row that his professional career really took off.
“I remember that moment. It was (coach) Dick Muir. He called me into the office. I was playing for the Under-21s in the Currie Cup as a loose forward/lock,” Mtawarira said.
“He called me in and said, ‘Beasty, I really like the way you play. But I don’t see you making it as a loose forward. I think if you convert to the front row and become a loosehead prop, that change could be really great for you and, who knows, you could become a Springbok’.
“In that very moment I didn’t believe him and I was upset because I had been working my whole career playing in the back row.
“I saw myself playing there forever and here was somebody trying to challenge me and make me change my body shape and everything ... it was a really big challenge.”