England v South Africa
Borthwick has Boks in his sights
November 21, 2008
Can Borthwick and England get back to winning ways against South Africa? © Getty Images
Steve Borthwick is determined to answer his critics in the best way possible - by leading England to victory over world champions South Africa.
Captain Borthwick has shouldered much of the blame for England's ill-disciplined performance in last weekend's 28-14 defeat to Australia. "There are certain expectations and responsibilities that come with accepting the role as captain," said Borthwick, who is preparing to lead England for a sixth time.
"The buck stops with me and with Martin Johnson as team manager. It is part of the job. But I have full confidence in my own ability as a rugby player and as a captain. I am very experienced in that role.
"I am looking forward to going out this weekend. I am intent on helping England move forward to produce a better performance not only tomorrow but also in the short, medium and long term so we become a much better England team."'
England manager Martin Johnson and the players have publicly backed the "fantastic job" Borthwick is doing behind the scenes in trying to build a new team and grow a leadership group within a young squad. Borthwick added: "What is important is having a team of leaders. I believe we have some very good leaders and as we have different experiences I think we will grow even more.
"It is invaluable having Phil Vickery in the camp, Nick Easter is a senior player and Riki Flutey is an experienced rugby player, having played in both hemispheres. Danny Care and Danny Cipriani will both grow into the role and we would then have a leadership spine."
The scrummaging contest will once again be in sharp focus after England failed to dominate the Australian scrum and set any kind of attacking platform. The match was littered with re-sets and the Wallabies managed to snatch two balls against the head, which scrum coach Graham Rowntree described as "an embarrassment".
England expect South Africa to provide a far more direct and straight-forward challenge than the Wallabies. There will be fewer games and a whole load more grunt from props Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis on Saturday.
Borthwick added: "South Africa bring a tremendously physical scrummage. It will be formidable. That is what we have prepared for. We need to be very strong but also very precise."
Johnson's message this week has been for England to trust themselves, both in attack and defence, after going "off-script" too often against the Wallabies. Johnson pressed that message home by making just one tactical change, with James Haskell brought in to try and match the Springboks' renowned physicality.
England were forced into a late reshuffle yesterday after Andrew Sheridan dropped out with a neck injury to be replaced at loose-head prop by Tim Payne.