June International Tours

England facing another Bok ‘tidal wave’


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England’s battered and bruised squad limped out of Bloemfontein and headed to Pretoria on Sunday, hoping to avoid another record defeat in the return test against South Africa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, June 2.

Following the tourists’ record 58-10 hammering in Bloemfontein at the weekend – England’s second biggest defeat ever (beaten only by the 76-0 hammering at the hands of Australia in 1998) and the biggest ever against the Springboks – many felt that an even bigger hammering could be on the cards at Loftus.

England’s forwards captain, Mark Regan admitted that his team could be on the wrong end of another hiding.

“We’ve got another tidal wave coming at us,” the pack leader said.

The tourists are in pieces – physically, if not quite mentally – after the weekend’s record defeat against South Africa.

But Bristol hooker Regan, who has proved an inspirational figure on this ill-fated trip, is ready to stare adversity straight in the face and not flinch an inch.

Regan said: “We have got to keep our heads up.

“We’ve got another tidal wave coming at us next week, but at least next Saturday we’ve got a chance of going out and having a second opportunity.

“We can’t smash each other up in training this week. It is about getting the mind right for what will be just as tough a game.

“We’ve worked our hearts out the last 10 days. It will take three or four days to get over that sort of physicality, to get our minds right and go out and try to give it our best shot, but you cannot play the game if you don’t have belief.”

The battered English team feel they take heart from the first test, a strange contest when England frustrated try-hungry South Africa for two spells totalling 50 minutes, but still ended up conceding seven touchdowns.

The second and fourth quarters provided grisly viewing as the Springboks went from 6-0 up to 30-3 ahead by half-time, then turned a 20-point lead into their final emphatic margin by claiming four converted scores in nine demoralising minutes.

There is no escape though, with another unforgiving environment awaiting the tourists next weekend – Loftus in Pretoria.

Regan added: “At half-time, we had to stick together. Were we going to go down by 70 points or go out and give it our best shot? We did well for those first 25 minutes of the second period and showed what we were capable of.

“But individual errors cost us, and that is international rugby. If you miss a tackle or concede a turnover, it is often seven points, and that was the difference.

“We’ve got to realise this is Test rugby, and if you make mistakes it is seven points, it is as simple as that, but the new guys have had a taste of it and we’ve got another chance to put it right.”

The English feel the test series is irrelevant in terms of any realistic form guide prior to the countries’ crunch World Cup pool clash in Paris on September 14.

Illness and injuries apart, England travelled to South Africa without a sizeable contingent from European finalists Leicester, Wasps and Bath, and they were never seriously going to match the attacking flair and physical power South Africa had at their disposal.

England number eight Nick Easter, one of the tourists who enhanced his reputation, said: “For 45 minutes of the game we caused them problems – it is just the other 35 we have got to rectify, and we’ve only got a week to do it.

“We knew what we were coming up against on this tour, and luckily we have got another chance next weekend. There is no point moping around and feeling sorry for ourselves.

“We lost the collision, we lost the kicking game and we turned over too much possession. In the second-half, we put them under pressure and they looked pretty ordinary, but once they got another score their tails were up and ours were down.”


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