South Africa v England, Durban
Five reasons why...will win the first Test
June 8, 2012
South Africa will hope 'The Beast' is at his snarling best come game day © Getty Images
The Springboks go head-to-head with England on Saturday in the first of three Tests on South African soil in June.
Ahead of the clash, we offer five reasons why the Boks will kick-start their new era under Heyneke Meyer with a win and from England's point of view, why Stuart Lancaster will be all-smiles come the full-time whistle.
Five reasons why South Africa will win the first Test
Durban's Kings Park - aptly named the 'Shark tank' - is one of South Africa's favourite grounds with the slanted tiers in the stand and the intimidating atmosphere. Boasting numerous Sharks in the South African XV, they will be right at home come Saturday and you can expect the majority of the crowd to be backing the Boks to kick-start the three-Test series with a win.
After their poor showing at the 2011 World Cup where they bowed out at the quarter-final stage of the tournament, they are embracing the new era under Heyneke Meyer. Previous coach Peter de Villiers was never shy of featuring on both the back and front pages of the newspapers so expect the Boks to go about their business in a quieter manner under Meyer and be looking to give their new coach a winning start to his tenure.
The dominant Stormers
The Stormers are leading the South African conference table in Super Rugby after losing just two games this term. At the forefront of everything they have done well are Bryan Habana and second-row Eben Etzebeth. While Habana has been playing at outside centre for the Stormers and lines up on the wing come Saturday, Etzebeth has the potential to be a mainstay in the Springboks side for years to come. If the South African side can harness the Stormers' form then England will find it very hard to stop them.
A question of experience
The Springboks boast 458 Test caps in their starting XV while England have just 187. While South Africa are handing out three debuts they still have an embarrassment of riches in their side with a host of charges fully aware of the standard of performance needed to win an international.
They have 'The Beast'
Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira dominated Phil Vickery back in the first Test of the British & Irish Lions series in 2009 and despite his recent ill-health, the loose-head is showing no signs of having lost any of his formidable strength, as illustrated by his incredible support of fellow team-mate Anton Bresler in a recent Super Rugby game.
Five reasons why England will win the first Test
Joe Marler will be integral to England if they are to win on Saturday © Getty Images
With England boasting a young Test side by international standards, they are firmly building towards the 2015 World Cup. What better way to announce themselves on the worldwide stage than with a win at Kings Park against the Springboks. The most-capped player in the side - Dylan Hartley - is still just 26 and will be hitting his prime in 2015 and he will be one of a host of England's charges playing without fear in the Shark tank.
A 'settled' second-row
While the Springboks' second-row will be playing together at Test level for the first time, England's pairing of Geoff Parling and Mouritz Botha have already got three Tests under the belt. While it's small margins in terms of caps between the two pairings, it is little side plots like the second-row that could swing the game in England's favour.
The power of local knowledge
Former Sharks player Brad Barritt is lining up for England at inside centre and he knows exactly what the ground holds in store for the side come Saturday. England will also call on South African-born Mouritz Botha to help dissemble the Springboks' lineout calls.
Loving the underdogs title
England flew under the radar at the 2012 Six Nations to finish second in the tournament despite many fancying them to lose three of their five games. It would take a very brave individual to stake their mortgage on a Boks whitewash across the three Tests and with England still buoyed from the post-Six Nations good feeling, they seem to relish the underdogs tag under Lancaster.
Poor record at Kings Park
The Boks lost to the Lions at Kings Park back in 1997 and have struggled in recent times, winning just three of their last seven Test matches at the ground. While home advantage does pay dividends at Test level, England will take heart from the Springboks' recent struggles in Durban.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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