Tom Curry has warned England to avoid repeating the British and Irish Lions’ tactical mistake of trying to fight fire with fire when they host South Africa on Saturday.
The Springboks conclude the Autumn Nations Series at Twickenham in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final, when they emerged emphatic 32-12 winners with a victory founded on the dominance of their scrum.
In reference to that dispiriting afternoon in Yokohama, Eddie Jones has spoken of the need to face South Africa with a different gameplan when “fighting a George Foreman who can whack and whack and whack and whack”.
It was the approach taken by Warren Gatland’s Lions during the summer, when the world champions clinched a 2-1 series victory.
Curry started all three Tests and understands the risks attached to trying to meet South Africa’s strengths of a formidable set-piece, suffocating defence and a pinpoint kicking game head on.
“The Lions tour taught that you don’t play them at their own game – which is a lot of kicks and slowing the game down,” Curry said.
“You probably shoot yourselves in the foot if you get in that cycle with them because that’s what they want. We have to make sure we are clear about what we want to do.
“It’s relatively clear having seen them recently how they want to play. We’ve just got to make sure we’re confident in how we’re going to go against that.
“South Africa pride themselves on physicality, but at the same time there’s not loads to hit when the ball is in the air.
“It’s about getting that balance right, making sure we’re clear on our gameplan and how we want to get it done.
“They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t good at what they do, but it’s going to be really exciting and we’re ready for the challenge.”
England failed to fire a shot in Yokohama two years ago as their glorious semi-final victory over New Zealand made way for a dismal no show against an inspired South Africa.
It stands as one of the low points in the nation’s rugby history, but Curry is not motivated by a desire for retribution.
“For us, in terms of ‘revenge’, we’ve got a new team, they have a new team. It’s not about avenging anything, it’s about winning,” the Sale forward said.
“I’ve not watched the final back and you don’t need to for emotions, either. This is one of the biggest games of the season. If that doesn’t get you up for it I don’t know what will.”
Jones on Thursday morning names his team for the climax to the autumn, with veteran flanker Courtney Lawes once again set to deputise as captain for Owen Farrell after the Saracens playmaker was ruled out by an ankle injury.
“I love Courtney. He’s got a lot of respect within the squad. Whatever he says carries a lot of weight,” Curry said.
“I’m excited the whole time, but Courtney brings that element of being calm, relaxed and the voice of reason. I love listening to him. He’s very reasoned. I think he’s brilliant.”