Sport : Rugby Union

South Africa name unchanged side

21st November 2012, 05:27pm

Eben Etzebeth: Starts in second row

Eben Etzebeth: Starts in second row

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer was relieved to be able to include his "enforcer" Eben Etzebeth to face England after the lock was cleared of an eye-gouging charge.

Etzebeth appeared before a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night after being cited for allegedly making contact with the "eye or eye area" of Scotland fly-half Greig Laidlaw.

The judicial officer, David Martin, decided the contact had been accidental and ruled Etzebeth available to play at Twickenham.

Meyer rates Etzebeth as one of the best locks in the world and believes his aggression will be vital against an England side preparing to "toughen up".

Etzebeth plays in an unchanged Springbok starting line-up from their 21-10 victory at Murrayfield, with Bath's Francois Louw on the openside and Ulster's Ruan Pienaar at scrum-half.

"It makes a huge difference (to have Etzebeth available)," Meyer said.

"He is playing great rugby. He has shown himself against the All Blacks and Australia and he is close to being one of the best locks in the world.

"He is one of the enforcers in the team.

"Eben has grown a hell of a lot in the lineout. Suddenly he is putting pressure on in the position and his weight advantage is a big benefit in the scrums.

"In these conditions you don't get quick ball and Eben is great at the breakdown, he is a physical guy there and his cleaning technique is excellent.

"We were dangerous when we played England at Ellis Park (in June) because we got quick ball."

Sir Clive Woodward warned England after their 20-14 defeat to Australia last weekend that they would need to be more aggressive against the Springboks.

Tom Wood will definitely return at blindside flanker and he delivered a passionate battle-cry to the team yesterday, demanding they meet the physical South African challenge head on.

Meyer, the former Leicester director of rugby, does not consider England as a side to with a soft underbelly - at least not any more.

"Looking back I always looked on England teams as great teams but I never thought they were so tough but when I coached at Leicester I was really impressed by their physicality," he said.

"Lewis Moody and Martin Corry and those guys are probably the toughest guys I have coached. My whole perception has changed.

"They always bring it physically. It will be a bruising encounter.

"The last three Test matches were really physical and that was at the end of their long season. Now they are fresh and we need to toughen up and put our bodies on the line.

"I have a lot of respect for their scrummaging power. Dan Cole, I believe, is close to being the best tighthead in the world. They have really good lineouts and defensively they are a good team."

This is South Africa's final Test match of a long season and Meyer is concerned that his men - discounting the European-based players - do not metaphorically have one foot on the beach this weekend.

"I need one more great performance out of the players. They always lift themselves for England but I am worried, mentally it has really been a long season," Meyer said.

"These guys they will stand up for the challenge, they are warriors, they want to play for the country and for the guy next to them. I always believe with the mind there anything is possible."

Meyer retains great respect for a number of his former Leicester charges - Cole, Manu Tuilagi and Tom Youngs.

It was also Meyer who first suggested the England hooker should switch to the front row from being a powerful but limited centre.

"I had high expectations for Tom but I wasn't sure if he would be able to get his mind around it," Meyer recalled.

"I knew he was a tough character, a farm boy and the whole family is a rugby family. He has really been impressive.

"It takes a few games to make another step up in Test match rugby. In the next few Test matches - hopefully not against South Africa - I think he will be a force to be reckoned with."

South Africa team: Z Kirchner (Blue Bulls); JP Pietersen (The Sharks), J de Jongh (Western Province), J de Villiers (Western Province, captain) F Hougaard (Blue Bulls); P Lambie (The Sharks), R Pienaar (Ulster); G Steenkamp (Toulouse), A Strauss (Cheetahs), J du Plessis (The Sharks), E Etzebeth (Western Province), J Kruger (Blue Bulls), F Louw (Bath), W Alberts (The Sharks), D Vermeulen (Western Province).

Replacements: S Brits (Saracens), H van der Merwe (Leinster), P Cilliers (Western Province), F van der Merwe (Blue Bulls), M Coetzee (The Sharks), E Jantjies (Golden Lions), J Taute (Golden Lions), L Mvovo (The Sharks).

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