South Africa powerhouse fires warning to England ahead of final autumn clash

It's been seven years since a South Africa team last defeated England at Twickenham, even though the Springboks have come to dominate this fixture with wins in all but four of their last 18 meetings.

That recent record has helped set the stage for what promises to be a Test of titanic proportions on Saturday when both teams are hoping to complete clean sweeps this autumn.

And South Africa prop Steven Kitshoff has fired England a warning before they face off for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, claiming the Boks 'know their weaknesses' this time around.

That certainly appeared to be the case when they emerged as 32-12 victors in the Japan decider two years ago, but Red Rose coach Eddie Jones will be desperate for vengeance at Headquarters.

"England is always a tough, physical game," said Kitshoff in the build-up to Saturday's stare-down. "They can kick or play with the ball in hand, and have a great set-piece. We don’t really look at past results, and just focus on the game at the weekend.

"They have a very good contesting system. They have a good pack of forwards and a nice attacking brand with ball in hand. We know the challenges, but we also know their weaknesses."

England have already been weakened by the withdrawals of captain Owen Farrell and hooker Jamie George, who each came off injured in Saturday's hard-fought 32-15 win over Australia.

Farrell kicked 17 of those points against the Wallabies, but the onus now looks as though it will fall on emerging superstar Marcus Smith to steer the Red Rose in a more senior capacity.

South Africa, meanwhile, have recalled fly-half Handre Pollard for the trip to Twickenham, with the Montpellier marvel having kicked 22 points from the tee en route to their most recent World Cup triumph.

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The Springboks recently recaptured the No. 1 spot in World Rugby's rankings after they beat Scotland 30-15, while New Zealand dropped back to second following Saturday's 29-20 defeat to Ireland.

"It has been a tough, long year, but there is a lot of energy in the camp to get a good result," Kitshoff continued. "It is an important game for us to keep our No. 1 spot in the world rankings until the international season starts again next year."

The Stormers star will form part of coach Jacques Nienaber's 'Bomb Squad' on Saturday, the nickname attributed to South Africa's elite crew of forward replacements.

Kitshoff, 29, has started in only 15 of his 57 Test appearances to date, but the bench role is one he's come to embrace in an era where rugby's 'finishers' are often just as valued as those who make the XV.

"There’s pride in being part of the Bomb Squad," he said. "We know our role, what we need to do, and everything is planned out exactly during the week. I have no preference if I start or come off the bench."

The 18-stone star had yet to make his international debut the last time South Africa won at Twickenham in November 2014, though he's featured in both of their defeats at the ground since then.

The World Cup-holders will have watched England's recent win over the Wallabies with some fascination, a result that didn't flatter Jones' side given they played a quarter of the match against 14 men.

South Africa were also off their best before beating Scotland last time out, with Gregor Townsend 's men perhaps giving their southern neighbours a few clues as to how they might best the Boks.

Jones has led England to three wins and three defeats in this fixture since taking over the Red Rose in 2015, but he'll be hopeful the fortress mentality at Twickenham is one strength that remains.

South Africa team to face England

(Backs) Willie le Roux; Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach; (Forwards) Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane; Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager; Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen

Reps: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn

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