De Villiers hails ‘most improved’ England

The veteran centre sees parallels between the two nations in the way both have injected new talent over the last few seasons, but also kept a core group of experienced players.


“I see a lot of similarities between their team and ours. England is the team that has evolved the most and improved the most,” De Villiers told reporters on Friday.

“You look back at 2012 and the four games we played against each other, we narrowly won the first two in South Africa, drew the third and beat them by one point in the last game, so there was not much between the two teams then and I think they are a different beast now in 2014.

“They have new players coming in, but there is still experience within the squad, and the mix they have there at the moment is pretty good.”

The Springbok captain suggests the challenge of meeting England away from home is second only to New Zealand for the South African players.

“Rugby was born here. Growing up in South Africa you want to play New Zealand, but also playing against England is not far behind that. It’s a proud rugby nation and one of the most difficult teams to beat at home.

“Whenever we play England it’s always a massive challenge and a big battle, so the focus sharpens up during a week like this, where we definitely know what we are in for. There’s a lot on the line and it makes for a great game.”

De Villiers is looking for a reaction from his players following their 29-15 defeat in Ireland last weekend, which would also serve as a confidence boost ahead of next year’s World Cup in England.

“When it has been a result like last weekend the tensions are high at stages but I thought we controlled it well this week,” the 33-year-old said.

“If we can function well again with our first phases, because the challenge will be different and will be fierce in that department, and we can still dominate in the possession and territory, then I think we will tick the right boxes.”

(Reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town; editing by Toby Davis)