With kick off just over an hour away, the time for speculation about who and who won’t perform for their teams this Autumn is almost over.
England take on South Africa this afternoon, in a game that many would struggle to predict. England are severely suffering from a catalogue of unavailable players due to injury, whilst South Africa have fallen foul of the Premiership’s player windows. This leaves difficult selection decisions for Rassie Erasmus and Eddie Jones who are both under pressure to perform.
One position that Eddie Jones has had relative ease at selecting is that of openside flanker, with 20-year-old Tom Curry seemingly cementing his place in the Red Rose jersey, after a strong Summer in South Africa. Rassie Erasmus, on the other hand, looks to newly signed Bulls star Duane Vermeulen who also performed exceptionally well for South Africa in June.
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In this article, we shall take a brief but focused look at the strengths of both these players, looking in particular at how each player will attempt to get an edge over their opposite player.
Being almost 12 years older than Curry can have its benefits. The 32-year-old currently has 32 caps for the Springboks, as well as playing an instrumental in South Africa’s 2015 World Cup campaign, where they narrowly lost to New Zealand in the semi-finals. This leads us onto our Vermeulen’s considerable skills.
- His handling is second to none, examples of this can be seen this Summer, where Duane drew in two England players before releasing Dyantyi on the wing for a fantastic try. However the one true example of his handling skills is highlighted in his around-the-back pass to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Wales. With six minutes left on the clock, the Bulls star had the confidence and presence of mind to complete this pass and send his team into the semi-finals. This kind of handling could be the difference between winning and losing today.
- Vermeulen will probably be the strongest carrier on the pitch today, barring someone like Eben Etzebeth. This is a strength that Vermeulen certainly has over Curry who is not particularly known for his carrying work. Combine his carrying with the work rate of Kolisi and the athleticism of Whitely and England could have a very long day at the office.
- His experience, as alluded to before, will be a key factor in whether South Africa win or lose today. The South African has played all across the worlds in leagues such as the Top 14 and the Japan Top League, and he will be able to use every ounce of this experience to his advantage today.
With this taken into account, it is clear to see why Erasmus has selected him at this position to negate the work carried out by the England back row.
The England youngster has been making quite some waves for Sale Sharks in the past two years in the English Premiership. His skills were thrust into the public eye this summer when he performed exceedingly well as one of the shining lights in a disappointing tour to South Africa. Curry’s skillsets widely differ to Vermeulen’s and we will explore them further now.
- Curry is without a doubt one of the most effective players that England has had at the breakdown for years. For Sale last year, the 20-year-old averaged three turnovers a game. This is an impressive stat in itself but it is not Curry’s turnovers that make him so effective for England, it is his ability to slow attacking ball down against the opposition. In the Summer, the Sale Sharks openside was able to hold onto South African players for an extra few seconds before finally going to ground. This allowed the England team to reorganise and prepare for another attack. It’s this kind of off the ball work that will make him so important for England this afternoon.
We note that we have only listed one skill for Curry compared to the three of Vermeulen but this attribute that he has is really so effective that we need not list another. If you’re watching today’s game on www.RugbyPass.com, be sure keep an eye on the work of Curry at the breakdown using our RPI index, it will really illuminate how effective he is.
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