Eddie Jones has hailed Alex Coles for forcing himself into the picture for selection at the 2023 World Cup.
Head coach Jones will send a pumped-up pack into Twickenham battle, with England’s forwards acutely aware of the Springboks’ confrontational approach.
South Africa built their 2019 World Cup triumph on raw power, and continue to wield unbridled physicality in the Test arena.
Asked why Coles will start at flanker, Jones said: “It’s the importance of the lineout, that role at six changes from week to week.
“We’re really pleased with Alex Coles’ progress, he wasn’t in our immediate plans this autumn but because of injuries and other issues he has come in and done really well. And he’s put himself in the reckoning for a World Cup spot.”
Tommy Freeman starts on the wing ahead of Jack Nowell, for his first Test appearance since the summer tour to Australia. Boss Jones has again resisted the temptation to start the in-form Henry Slade, with Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell continuing their 10-12 partnership.
“The talk all week has been that it’s the perfect test for us as a front five off the back of a poor performance at the weekend,” said starting hooker Jamie George.
“The way we scrummed and mauled (against New Zealand) is not the England standard and we’re fully aware of that. People have been really accountable to that and what better way to test yourself than against one of the best packs in the world.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them but we’re hurting from our performance at the weekend and we want to make sure we get things right.”
England have upped the ante this week, with some aggressive scrummaging sessions designed to whip the pack into the right mindset to face the Springboks.
“There’s been a bit of spice,” said forwards coach Matt Proudfoot. “It’s a big game and they live for that kind of thing, competition in training.
“These guys are professionals, they look after each other but they’ve taken it up a notch.”
England team to face South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday: F Steward, T Freeman, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (capt), J May, M Smith, J Van Poortvliet, M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, J Hill, A Coles, T Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, E Genge, W Stuart, D Ribbans, S Simmonds, B Youngs, H Slade, J Nowell.