Port Elizabeth – South Africa will come out “all guns blazing” to seal a 3-0 series sweep over England and prevent the tourists having the last laugh, Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said on Friday.
The centre, who was appointed permanent captain this week, said Saturday’s third Test also would be crucial for his team’s momentum at the start of its first international season under new coach Heyneke Meyer. De Villiers said the Boks still had a lot to work on despite taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series against England with bruising wins in Durban and Johannesburg.
England has just one more game after a grueling and often difficult year of rugby, meanwhile, and De Villiers noted Stuart Lancaster’s team would be a threat in the series-finale as it could “really give everything” in Port Elizabeth to take something from the tour.
“They want to go home with at least one Test win and we don’t want to give them that,” De Villiers said at Nelson Mandela Stadium as both camps dismissed talk of a “dead rubber” in the final test. “We’ve got a lot to play for.
“We know the responsibility we have when we put on the Springbok jersey. We will be going out all guns blazing tomorrow. It’s not as if anyone’s rested. We selected the strongest team.”
Despite a series defeat and the loss of a string of players to injury on a tough tour, the English still have the chance of a memorable and rare win in South Africa.
Assistant coach Mike Catt said the game was a valuable opportunity for England to gauge its progress in a “pretty unforgiving environment.” The South African-born Catt knows the Springboks won’t give up their dominance easily.
“We can’t go to sleep and let them in. When the big green machine gets rolling it’s very hard to stop,” Catt said.
While South Africa retained the bulk of the players who wore down England in the first two games, Lancaster was forced into another injury change when prop Alex Corbisiero had a recurrence of a knee injury on the eve of the test and was replaced by Joe Marler.
The English squad has had to deal with plenty of setbacks on tour, but the experience would pay off and a victory in the last game would be “massive” for the young group, Catt said.
“This trip has been invaluable,” said Catt, who was back in his city of birth. “A lot of youngsters have come out here for the first time and experienced what true rugby is all about in the heartlands of South Africa.
“For us, to go into our summer break with a victory against formidable opposition will definitely up the guys’ moods. It’s not about the series, it’s about winning this test match. “
Stand-in captain Dylan Hartley will take over from regular skipper Chris Robshaw, who has a cracked right thumb, and will lead England in a dramatic turnaround at the end of a season during which he was banned for eight weeks for biting in the Six Nations. The hooker said he never expected to be England captain.
“I’m flattered that the coaches came and asked me,” Hartley said. “I’m comfortable stepping into the role and I have got a good team around me, people like James Haskell and Toby Flood, experienced members.
“(It’s) A huge opportunity tomorrow. Not only to pick up a huge scalp on the road but also to lay down a marker for the Autumn tests coming.”
England flyhalf Flood and South Africa No. 8 Pierre Spies will both play their 50th tests in the series-finale at Port Elizabeth’s 2010 World Cup stadium.