South Africa are steeling themselves to face an England pack regimented by “one of the best forwards coaches in the world” at Twickenham on Saturday.
Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan hailed England counterpart Graham Rowntree for creating a “world-class scrum”, while calling on South Africa to sharpen up after 29-15 defeat in Ireland.
Van Graan revealed boss Heyneke Meyer has led several Springboks fact-finding missions to England, where the two sets of coaches have traded ideas and forged lasting friendships.
“Graham Rowntree is in my opinion one of the best forwards coaches in the world and a good friend of mine,” said Van Graan, who doubles as South Africa’s attack coordinator.
“The great thing about rugby is the friends you make. “We coached against each other for the first time in 2012, what a great guy and what a great coaching staff. Just look at guys like Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt; Heyneke and I have visited the Northern Hemisphere quite a few times in the last year, we’ve had a few coffees together.
“And like we did with the All Blacks a few weeks ago I’m sure we’re going to have a chat before and after the game, talk about their challenges, our challenges, where the game is going, what you think.”
South Africa dominated territory and possession against Ireland in Dublin but slipped to defeat owing to a host of handling errors and a costly yellow card for replacement hooker Adriaan Strauss.
Ireland’s physicality and technical nous caught the Springboks out, with Van Graan admitting their refusal to bind on an early maul was a “shock”.
Van Graan believes former Leicester and England prop Rowntree has built a pack that is now the envy of the world.
“They are always well-prepared at lineout time in attack and defence,” said Van Graan.
“It’s a world-class scrum and a world-class plan.” South Africa may parachute Patrick Lambie in at fly-half to face England ahead of fast-rising star Handre Pollard.
Meanwhile, Lancaster is “optimistic” Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley will pass concussion tests in time to face South Africa.
The England forwards took blows to the head against New Zealand but Lancaster said: “They will do a cog test on Thursday which they have to pass to train. We will have provisions in place should they fail that, but we are optimistic.”
All Blacks’ Conrad Smith returns home for ‘family matter’
All Blacks’ centre Conrad Smith will skip Saturday’s Test against Scotland so he can return home to deal with a family matter.
Coach Steve Hansen said Smith, who became a father in August, would miss the Test in Edinburgh and return in time for the Test against Wales on November 22.
“It’s not overly serious but it’s serious enough for him to have to go home,” Hansen said.
Saint-Andre says France want ‘triple revenge’
France have “triple revenge” in mind ahead of Saturday’s Test against Australia.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s team suffered three straight defeats to the Wallabies in June. Either side of a dour 6-0 reverse in Melbourne, France were thumped 50-23 in Brisbane and 39-13 in Sydney.
“We have to take triple revenge,” said Saint-Andre. “In the third Test we collapsed too quickly. That’s unacceptable when you represent a country, a history, an identity.”
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