England start Cipriani, Springboks change 4 for sweep bid
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Flyhalf Danny Cipriani will attempt to spark some life into an ailing England after earning his first test start since 2008 for the third and final test against South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.
George Ford has been Eddie Jones' preferred flyhalf, but with the series already lost the England coach threw a lifeline to Cipriani, who made a bright 13-minute appearance off the bench in last week's 23-12 defeat in Bloemfontein. That was his 15th cap, and first in three years.
"He sees space. Opportunities are going to be limited at the weekend and he may be able to take those opportunities for us," Jones said on Thursday.
Cipriani will seek to unpick a South Africa backline sporting no fewer than four changes, which include the introduction of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf ahead of usual starter Handre Pollard.
Warrick Gelant replaced Willie le Roux at fullback, while South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus picked a new centre pairing in Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen.
"Willie played with Cipriani in England and he will tell you he's learned so much from Cipriani, in terms of his running lines and picking the right options really late," Erasmus said.
"So our backline will be tested, although it depends if the weather allows (Cipriani) to play that way."
While conditions for the first two tests on the high veld were dry, rain is forecast for Cape Town on Saturday.
South Africa made one further change to its starting lineup, with Chiliboy Ralepelle coming in for Bongi Mbonambi, as Erasmus used the opportunity of a dead rubber to take a wider look at his players with the 2019 Rugby World Cup in mind.
"We might get some rain in the World Cup, and if these guys want to be in the World Cup squad then they need to prove themselves in wet weather under pressure," he said.
"We wanted to make some more changes, but you can't make 11 changes in a test match squad, it's a bit far-fetched. This was the maximum we could make."
Jones opted for more stability as he attempts to halt a five-test losing streak, with Cipriani one of just three changes.
The other two alterations were forced, after prop Mako Vunipola returned home for family reasons and flanker Brad Shields was struck down by illness.
Despite two deflating penalty-ridden defeats, Jones has done his best to project a buoyant atmosphere this week, insisting he is "loving" the pressure of the job and has "never seen such an upbeat group" of players.
The reality will become clearer on Saturday when his players face their final match of a long season. England hasn't lost six tests in a row in 12 years.
"We are up for the battle and are going to rip in on Saturday," Jones said. "We want another committed performance where it will be crucial to maintain our composure when the heat is on.
"We will need to jump out of the blocks quickly again and make sure we maintain that pressure and make good decisions."
South Africa: Warrick Gelant, S'busiso Nkosi, Jessie Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Chilliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Schalk Brits, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Willie le Roux.
England: Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Mike Brown, Danny Cipriani, Ben Youngs; Nathan Hughes, Tom Curry, Chris Robshaw, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Joe Marler. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Alec Hepburn, Harry Williams, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Sam Simmonds, Ben Spencer, Denny Solomona.