Jean de Villiers wary of improving England side

South Africa's Jean de Villiers passes the ball in training ahead of today's Twickenham Test. Picture: Getty
South Africa's Jean de Villiers passes the ball in training ahead of today's Twickenham Test. Picture: Getty
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South Africa captain Jean de Villiers believes much-improved England are a “different beast” two years on from their last clash.

None of the England team lining up at Twickenham today have beaten the two-time world champions as their winless run stands at 11 matches, since November 2006, including three losses and a draw in 2012.

But then De Villiers’ men were not expected to beat New Zealand last month and did, ending the world champion All Blacks’ 22-match unbeaten run, so he is not about to offer tips to England.

“A big part of our group never experienced beating the All Blacks and we managed to do that earlier this year,” De 
Villiers said. “It’s the old thing about records, they’re there to be broken. We certainly don’t want them to do that.

“It’s probably the team that has evolved the most and improved the most. You look back at that year [2012] and the four games that we played each other – not much between the two teams. They’re a different beast now in 2014.”

South Africa often raise their game against England and have a particular point to prove after following their All Blacks victory with a 29-15 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.

“Rugby was born here,” De Villiers said. “As South Africans you grow up wanting to play New Zealand. Playing against England is not far behind that.” England have lost four in a row – all to New Zealand – and face the prospect of five straight defeats for the first time since 2006, when they lost seven in a row.


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And England, who want results with less than a year to go to the Rugby World Cup on home soil, have beaten the three southern hemisphere giants on just two occasions in 12 Tests under Stuart Lancaster.

Asked what the difference will be for England to go from being improved to getting results, De Villiers said: “It looks like a happy team, so I can call that an improvement within their squad. Once you can create a good culture to work within and have guys happy within that culture, then results will come eventually.

“It takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight. The unfortunate thing for them is that the other teams are on that same mission. We’re trying to achieve the same thing.

“You’ll be on the losing side at stages, but you’ll be on the winning side at times as well.”

Meanwhile, Billy Vunipola insists he must overcome his cultural instincts as well as South Africa’s giant forwards if he is to impose himself today.

By his own admission Vunipola underperformed in the 24-21 defeat by New Zealand which kicked off England’s autumn campaign and was offered a combination of reassurance and harsh words by Lancaster, who has demanded a reaction from his 22-year-old No 8.

Vunipola believes his inability
to assert himself against the All Blacks is a result of his Polynesian heritage but is determined to throw off the shackles and carry the fight to the Springboks.

“I didn’t enforce my normal game and felt I was quiet. It’s tough because it’s not in our culture to say, ‘Look mum, I’m doing this’. As a kid you wait until you are spoken to,” said Vunipola, whose dad and two uncles played for Tonga.

“Sometimes I have got too much respect for older guys in the team, but I have to say: 
‘Give me the ball, I’ll do my best with it’.

“I need to impose myself with England like I do at Saracens and be who I am rather than tip-toeing round everyone.”


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