Cape Town - If there was one thing that was made as clear as newly polished crystal in the Springboks’ first loss to England in 10 years, it surely was that their troubles are far from over.
The Boks had a decent start, but England took control of the game as the legs started warming up. And the Boks? It looked as if their only aim in the game was to capitalise on England’s mistakes. Which, needless to say, they failed to do.
And there WERE opportunities to do so. There were more than enough. But the Boks just played like they had no plan on attack.
Eddie Jones’ troops conceded a large number of penalties, especially in the first half, and although the Boks were commanding at the set-pieces in the first half and they weren’t nearly as poor at the breakdown area as they were last week (it was 50-50), England played with intent and with a plan.
And it wasn’t like England made use of intricate moves to score their tries. It was simple, yet well-executed and effective.
South Africa were poor under the high ball and their aerial game, the very thing that they focused ‘getting right’, showed no improvement. And their one-on-one tackles, especially the ones in the build-up to England’s tries, were amateur-like.
Against the Barbarians last week, Allister Coetzee’s side produced a number of standout individual performances, but there weren’t a lot to choose from at the home of rugby.
Bok debutant and outside centre Francois Venter produced a decent performance, although he didn’t mimic his Super Rugby and Currie Cup ways. He made a few good, strong runs, a few slick passes, including an offload in the tackle to Warren Whitely that put Goosen away for a try, and he worked hard.
Pivot Patrick Lambie started well but he made some mistakes in the second half while the Boks loose trio of Willem Alberts, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley got involved at the breakdowns.
England’s love for decoy runners (or should I say Eddie Jones’ love for it, as was evident when he coached the Wallabies, the Brumbies, the Reds and Japan) became even more evident in the build-up to the first try.when left wing Jonny May went over in the corner. Owen Farrell added the conversion to give the hosts a 7-6 lead in the first quarter.
After calmly slotting a penalty and a drop goal, Lambie missed the penalty kick that would have given South Africa a two-point lead after the try by May.
England lock Courtney Lawes went over just before half time and it all started back in Bok half when JP Pietersen failed to gather a high ball. It was scrappy play after that, but after England had kicked downfield it was Lambie’s hand that knocked the ball forward on cover defence just short of the try line, and Lawes sped past to dive on the knocked-on ball. Farrell added the extras to stretch their lead to 20-9 at half time.
Billy Vunipola created the third five-pointer when he bulldozed over the advantage line midfield. England again took the ball through the hands and Youngs sold Pieter Steph du Toit the first of two dummies to put Ford into space with a superb inside pass to finish it off. Farrell of course, made no mistakes as he hit the target to give England a commanding 27-9 lead.
Replacement back Johan Goosen got the Boks’ first try on the scoreboard after a brilliant outside pass by Willie le Roux and a superb display of hands by Venter. The outside centre offloaded to No 8 Warren Whiteley, who ran down touch before passing to Goosen to go over. Goosen failed to hit the target with the conversion (30-14).
After a relatively quiet period, Farrell got the scoreboard ticking for England again when he scored and converted to take the score to 37-14.
With two minutes on the clock, Bok fullback Wille le Roux crossed over the whitewash for a consolation try. Right wing Ruan Combrinck added the conversion to end the game on 37-21.
It was obviously too little too late, but the one thing that the Boks can take from the game is that they do need a plan, not only with ball-in-hand, but also in terms of their approach.
Maybe that mindset change would come in handy now?
England: Tries: Jonny May, Courtney Lawes, George Ford, Owen Farrell Conversions: Owen Farrell (4) Penalties: Farrell (3)
Springboks: Tries: Johan Goosen, Willie le Roux Conversions: Goosen, Ruan Combrinck Penalties: Patrick Lambie (2), Drop goal: Lambie
Original source: Springboks’ troubles are far from over