- Prop highlights improvement in scrum and urges concentration for crucial period after half time
- We can't panic because then we won't make the right decisions – Cole
England tighthead Dan Cole has urged his side to play without panic despite the intense atmosphere of this afternoon’s second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
Named in an unchanged pack, the 25 year-old is set to win his 30th cap and acknowledged that his fellow forwards would have to step up considerably in order for the tourists to draw level in the three-match series.
As part of a tight-five that lost five out of eight scrums last Saturday – in stark contrast to the hosts’ perfect record of seven from seven – Cole also highlighted the set-piece, and that damning statistic, as a crucial area of improvement.
“We gave away three penalties for early engagements from the first three scrums,” he explained. “That was just excitement, I think. We had talked about that in the week – you can’t give away possession like that against good teams.
“Whatever level you are playing at, the scrum is an important part of the game, especially against physical sides like the Springboks. When you have trouble securing your own ball, you get put under pressure.
“During the Six Nations we worked really hard on being the better pack in each game but last weekend wasn’t a great set performance from us. Stuart [Lancaster] has shown that he will make changes if people aren’t at their best so we want to put it right this weekend.”
Reviewing the Durban clash more closely, Cole reinforced the importance of maintaining concentration after half time – a glaring fault in England’s overall display at Kings Park that was punished both two South Africa tries in the third quarter.
Photo: Getty Images
“From watching the video back, we have realised that we lost the Test match in that area,” continued the Leicester Tigers man. “Their possession and territory in that period took its toll. It was a war of attrition and they won.
“A lot of the work is mental. We have to realise not to get a panic on and need to make the right decisions about when to contest the ball. A lot of that has been done this week, so hopefully we can be better.”
“I wouldn’t say they had a simple game plan, but you do know what is going to come at you. They maul, they scrum and they run hard. You have to front up and stop that, ideally by not giving them the ball in the first place.”
Prior to leaving for South Africa, England fitness coach Paul Stridgeon scheduled a series of squad conditioning sessions to prepare for the altitude of the High Veldt.
With Coca-Cola Park situated 1753 metres above sea-level, Cole was mindful, if unperturbed by the alien conditions.
“You do breathe a bit harder earlier on in sessions. But that is another thing you have to manage. You know that the air is thinner but you can’t panic about that, either. You have to try and keep yourself calm, both physically and mentally.
“We’ve spoken to the guys that played on Wednesday [against the Southern Barbarians at Kimberley] about their issues with it – they actually didn’t seem to be affected that much. We can’t use that as an excuse.
“It is tough defending for 20-30 minutes of a game no matter where you are. We just have to stop the Springboks’ game, put them on the back foot and make them work harder. The altitude is the same for both teams."