England need some ideas from somewhere – if they are found as wanting in the brain department at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow as they were at times while losing the first two tests against the Springboks they will end the series with plenty of nothing.
To that end, head coach Stuart Lancaster has turned to Saracens fullback Alex Goode, who has been responsible for some of the most intelligent rugby in England since Saracens announced themselves as title contenders in 2009.
Lancaster has been keeping an eye on the 24-year-old playmaker from Cambridge for months.
“South Africa, that’s where he’ll get his chance,” Lancaster said during this year’s Six Nations.
But he is a week late. Goode should have started last week in Johannesburg, not been restricted to two minutes off the bench.
“I felt that if I kept knocking out the performances, my opportunity would come,” Goode said, after being named in a side with seven changes from last week.
“If I can defuse the Springbok kicking game by playing some cat and mouse with them, all well and good. But I also want some attacking involvement, to influence the shape of the game.”
The other changes were predictable. Danny Care’s pace nudged him ahead of Lee Dickson and into the No 9 shirt vacated by the stricken Ben Youngs, Alex Corbisiero’s performance off the bench at Ellis Park was enough to end Joe Marler’s brief run at loosehead, Tom Palmer was short-priced to replace Mouritz Botha at lock and James Haskell and Thomas Waldrom were back-row contenders once Chris Robshaw was injured and Ben Morgan was dropped.
Flanker Jacques Potgieter will win his first cap for South Africa as one of three enforced changes to the Springbok team, replacing Willem Alberts who has not recovered from a knee ligament injury sustained at Ellis Park last weekend.
And 16-test veteran Gio Aplon returns in place of fullback Patrick Lambie, out with an ankle injury.
South Africa: JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (c), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn,
Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Jacques Potgieter, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger,
Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Elton Jantjies, Bjorn Basson.
England: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Jonathan Joseph, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden, Toby Flood
Danny Care, Thomas Waldrom, James Haskell, Tom Johnson, Geoff Parling, Tom Palmer,
Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (c), Alex Corbisiero.
Reserves: Lee Mears, Joe Marler, Mouritz Botha, Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt.