England were 3.5 to beat South Africa in the first Test in Durban. Odds of 5.3 on a Red Rose second Test win this Saturday tell you a lot about the nature of international rugby tours. Lose the first Test and it's extremely difficult to regain momentum. That's why 3-0 South Africa is in to 1.6 in the Series Correct Score market and I have to admit that I wouldn't argue against that price.
England weren't awful last week but they will probably never have a better chance of winning a Test in South Africa than they did against Heyneke Meyer's transitional team. Stuart Lancaster's side were expected to benefit from their extra preparation time but it was the Springboks who played with confidence and continuity.
Early on we saw how dangerous it is to give South Africa's backs any extra impetus when Ben Youngs' wayward kick allowed Bryan Habana to build-up momentum running from deep. They got away with it once and, going in to the second-half, I felt pretty good about my bet on a 51-60 minute first try. South Africa were relentless, I was praying that England could hold out against the hosts' waves of pressure but watching Morne Steyn go over in the 49th was agonising. When England were caught defending too narrowly for Jean de Villiers try it was salt in the wound.
England will be a faster, looser outfit with Toby Flood at ten. I'm sorry for Bradley Barritt but I am excited by Manu Tuilagi's move inside as Jonathan Joseph comes in to the centre for his first cap. This is the combination that I expect to see for England at the next World Cup. I thought they'd have to wait at least another year but circumstances mean that Joseph gets his chance early. Don't expect fireworks yet but, with time, work and luck, this could turn out to be a legendary partnership. Tuilagi might be our Sonny Bill Williams. He and Joseph have balance, power, pace and the ability to skin opponents.
Having played at Ellis Park, for the British Lions in 1997, I can confirm that the altitude is as much of a problem for tourists as everybody claims. The comparison that's most often drawn is with how it feels to suffer a punctured lung. Thankfully, I wouldn't know what that's like but I remember the strange, stifling sensation of gasping for air while trying to stop a World Cup-winning attack.
I fear for England against a buoyed South Africa but we can compete in Johannesburg. Remember, it was following that catastrophic second-half against Wales that England went to Paris and won when nobody expected them too. England were far from disastrous last weekend. The road to 2015 will be long and, occasionally for bettors, treacherous but Lancaster is building and I'm encouraged by the line-up he's selected. South Africa might score early and maintain a comfortable advantage throughout but they won't be out of sight at the end. I like the look of the home win by less than 12.5 points.
2pts Back South Africa to win by -12.5 points @ 2.52
2pts Back South Africa/South Africa @ 1.51
1pt Back 21-30 minutes for the first try
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