Springboks and England have much to play for in 3rd test
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The scent of opportunity will swirl in the damp Newlands breeze on Saturday when South Africa and England step out for the third and final rugby test.
With the host team having wrapped up the series 2-0, the collective objectives for an under-fire England are clear: End a five-test losing streak and win its first match in South Africa since 2000.
But the real opportunities will exist on an individual level, and apply on both sides.
Should England earn its first victory on South African soil in seven attempts, the result will surely have some of Danny Cipriani's fingerprints on it.
When Cipriani tore Ireland apart on debut at age 20 in March 2008, pundits drooled over the seemingly infinite potential of his international career.
Yet, when Cipriani runs out on Saturday, it will be the mercurial flyhalf's first start since November 2008, and will earn him a 16th test cap.
The 30-year-old maverick's selection ahead of George Ford is testament to his determination to make good on his talent, but also coach Eddie Jones' desperation to turn around his fragile side.
If Cipriani can do that, it will be a step towards a meaningful international career.
"I want to be in this England team for as long as I possibly can," he said. "I've been in and out for a while. A lot of it was my own doing and sometimes it was down to different personalities. But I persevered and made sure I've done everything I can to get back in."
While all eyes will be on Cipriani from an English perspective, South Africa has taken the opportunity of an early series win to look at its depth.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has opted for five changes to the team that won 23-12 in Bloemfontein last week - four of them in the backline - and has maintained the emphasis on South Africa's transformation objectives.
Erasmus has been given a target of 45 percent black representation in his squad, a figure that must rise to 50 by the time the 2019 Rugby World Cup rolls around.
To that end, Erasmus has appointed South Africa's first black captain in Siya Kolisi, and given debuts to eight players of colour in his first three tests in charge.
Two of those players, fullback Warrick Gelant and scrumhalf Embrose Papier, will be given fresh opportunities at Newlands after the former was included in place of the experienced Willie le Roux and the latter was picked on the bench.
Elton Jantjies, who played in a 22-20 defeat to Wales three weeks ago but has featured for only four minutes against England, will also start at flyhalf.
For Erasmus, the concern of making major changes is outweighed by the need to test his fringe players in a challenging environment.
"The thing is, if you look at the 10, 12 and 13, those three guys started in the Wales test, so there shouldn't be a lack of understanding there," Erasmus said. "There's definitely a little bit of a risk, but we have to see how they perform under pressure."
With wet weather on the cards, Erasmus' tinkering has not extended to his pack, which has had the upper hand in the series.
Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is the only addition - another chance for a fringe player.
"When you look at the squad they've got, this is probably the strongest pack that they can put out," England scrum coach Neal Hatley noted. "People may look at it and say the wet weather may suit us, but in both test matches we've made electric starts in the first 20 or 25 minutes in bone-dry weather on quick pitches up on the high veld.
"The weather will be what it will be. They've also got good players who can play in wet conditions - guys who are used to playing in New Zealand or at Newlands where it's often pretty wet. So I don't think it gives us an added advantage."