England flyhalf Hodgson in Bok sights

South Africa coach Jake White has promised England flyhalf Charlie Hodgson a second torrid match at Twickenham in as many weeks as the Springboks bid to send the world champions crashing to a record eighth straight loss.

Hodgson was taken off early in the second half of England’s inept 25-18 defeat by Argentina last weekend, but has been retained by under-pressure coach Andy Robinson for Saturday’s clash, the first of two back-to-back Twickenham Tests against South Africa.

White has brought in Butch James at flyhalf, one of eleven personnel and positional changes, in a bid to rough up opposing number ten Hodgson.

James is renowned for his physicality and having seen how Argentina targeted the channel between flyhalf and inside centre, White wants to make sure Hodgson is in the firing line once again.

“I know what Butch can offer,” White told reporters after announcing his team at the squad’s hotel on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt in my mind Charlie Hodgson will know who he is early on in the game and if Charlie thinks that he can run it up to the line, like he does, he’ll get to know Butchy a lot better than he thought he would know Butchy.”

James replaced Andre Pretorius in a team showing six changes of personnel and five positional switches to the one that lost 32-15 against Ireland in the Springboks’ European tour opener last Saturday.

The Sharks star had a midfield role during South Africa’s record 53-3 defeat at Twickenham four years ago, a match where Jannes Labuschagne was red-carded for a reckless challenge on England golden boy Jonny Wilkinson.

White believes his new look line-up can add to England’s midfield concerns in defence even though the hosts will be fielding a new Test centre pairing of Newcastle teammates Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait.

“I was quite surprised they moved Jamie Noon back to inside centre. Obviously they found they were vulnerable in defence in 10/12 channel against Argentina and they want to bolster that,” he said.

Robinson has made seven changes from last weekend and was forced into a fresh switch on Wednesday when a calf injury forced out fullback Iain Balshaw.

Former England flanker Robinson is widely regarded as having two games to save his job.

White, whose immediate resignation was demanded on Tuesday in a motion of no-confidence passed by South Africa’s Blue Bulls province (formerly Northern Transvaal) after the Springboks finished bottom of this year’s Tri-Nations, said he sympathised with Robinson’s plight.

“I’m sure it’s not his calling that the team is not performing. The one thing I’ve always said since I got this job is that there is always one definite: coaches do get fired.”

South Africa, whose three-game European trip concludes with their Twickenham double-header, are without several senior players as they look to build their World Cup squad.

The likes of fullback Percy Montgomery, prop Os du Randt and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez all rested.

The Springboks play England four times between now and their pool meeting at the 2007 World Cup in France in September.

And White said this weekend represented a huge opportunity for some lesser-known Springboks.

“We are not saying for a moment they are second-rate players.
We want to see whether we can increase our depth. Depth is vital for winning World Cups.”

South Africa have lost their last five matches at England’s London base and White added: “The fact we haven’t won at Twickenham since 1997 is a huge bogey we need to address.

“I don’t think you can ever arrive at Twickenham and expect to be handed a Test match.”—Sapa-AFP

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