DURBAN (Reuters) - England are braced for a physical onslaught when they take on South Africa in the first test of a three-match series, England prop Dan Cole said on Tuesday.
South Africa's new coach Heyneke Meyer has picked a big, physical squad for Saturday's test in Durban and Cole, who played under Meyer when the latter was coach of English club side Leicester in 2008, said that matching the Springboks' physicality would be a key factor in deciding the contest.
"What we have seen of the South African Super Rugby franchises, and knowing Heyneke Meyer, their game is about the physical momentum that they can get if they get on the front foot. Once they are behind you they have deadly finishers like (wing) Bryan Habana," Cole told reporters.
Cole, a veteran of 28 tests, played down suggestions that the Springboks, who would only have had five days to prepare for Meyer's first test in charge of South Africa, would be under-prepared.
"The Springboks will play to their strengths which is a physical game. There is not a lot of deception in their game, like Australia or New Zealand, and South Africa will take it to you physically.
"Physicality is strength of Springbok rugby. I'm sure Heyneke will have a few things up his sleeve but at Leicester we played a fairly direct game," he explained.
The 25-year-old Cole has played against the Springboks once before, a 27-11 loss at Twickenham in 2010.
He said the expected Springbok front row of props Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis and hooker Bismarck du Plessis was a formidable unit that he was looking forward to getting to grips with.
"They are a great front row," Cole said. "They have played together a lot and, as a front row, it is good that you know each other inside out and they do.
"I played against them at Twickenham in 2010 and it was a tough battle but that's what we expect and what we go into this weekend prepared for."
Editing by Dave Thompson