South Africa vs England: Shields can inspire Red Rose rally
South Africa vs England Match Preview and Predictions
England coach Eddie Jones has made a big call by picking Hurricanes skipper and blindside flanker Brad Shields for the second Test against South Africa and dropping Chris Robshaw for the first time in his international career.
Jones selected the 27-year-old forward, whose parents are English but who was born in New Zealand, in a bid to help with the line-out and bring more leadership to an England side that have lost their last four Tests and also went down to the Barbarians at the end of May.
Their latest setback came last weekend when they relinquished a 24-3 lead to lose a breathtaking match 42-39 in Johannesburg.
The uncapped Shields was brought on as a 37th-minute replacement for Nick Isiekwe to stem a Springboks comeback led by the brilliant Faf de Klerk which ensured the home side went into the break 29-27 ahead.
The Boks largely dominated the second half although tries from Maro Itoje, who conceded a couple of penalties, and Jonny May gave the scoreline a respectable look.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs believes defence and discipline have cost England in the last five games, and those deficiencies were certainly in evidence on Saturday when the tourists conceded 12 penalties and five tries.
It's not all bad news for England, whose performance in the first 20 minutes was described as "brilliant" by Jones, and that gives us hope that the Red Rose can square the series at 6/4 as the first of our South Africa vs England predictions.
Skipper Owen Farrell revealed the players have held talks in the aftermath of that defeat and have been putting their ideas into practice on the training ground to cut out the errors that cost them so severely at Ellis Park.
The key will be to ensuring De Klerk is not allowed the time and space to dictate the game, or as Youngs put it in an interview with Sky Sports "to give him room and allow him to do basically whatever he wanted to do on the front foot".
England can take confidence from the opening quarter, especially with Shields added to the XV to help new skipper Farrell with some of the decision-making that was perhaps lacking after that blistering first 20 minutes. Joe Launchbury also returns to the second row after recovering from a calf injury so England are already looking stronger in the pack.
South Africa were not perfect and made plenty of mistakes in the early stages of the match, perhaps understandable considering their long flight back from Washington where they lost 22-20 to Wales in a one-off Test.
Let's not forget this team remains in transition after the end of the Alister Coetzee reign which produced just 11 wins from 25 Tests. With Rassie Erasmus now at the helm and Siya Kolisi appointed captain, it will take time to transform the players into a team this rugby union-obsessed nation deserves.
As well as South Africa played in the second half, England were denied a penalty on the hour when De Clerk tackled Henry Slade from an offside position from which the hosts benefited by going up the other end to score a try to take a 39-27 lead which proved decisive.
That proved to be a turning point in the match and we hope the referee makes the right calls in Bloemfontein at the weekend when we're expecting a tighter match.
Under 58.5 points looks tempting at 17/20, but the sole tip in our South Africa vs England betting preview is for the tourists to win at 6/4 to take the three-Test series to a decider.