By Owain Jones, Rugby World Editor
In a nutshell
ENGLAND WILL fly home reflecting on a 2-0 Series loss, but their journey will buoyed by the positives to come out of a third Test. England ended up drawing a game which many observers will feel was within their grasp. The players, once again, showed a creditable team spirit which is testament to the work done by Stuart Lancaster and his team in the last six months. With the missing Frans Steyn and Willem Alberts, the Springboks lost much of their ballast and go-forward from the earlier Tests and weren’t helped by the errant boot of the usually error-free Morne Steyn. At the end they were rocking as England went through phase after phase looking for a win. Sadly Owen Farrell’s wayward drop goal ended any chance of a rare win on Springbok soil. Danny Care was the scorer of England’s only try in the first-half, darting over to finish a troubled season on a high, while in the second-half it was JP Pietersen, the Series’ outstanding wing, who went over in the corner for South Africa’s only score after some concerted South African pressure. At the final whistle, the crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium made their displeasure felt vocally, a fact England can take great heart from.
As a stand-in captain for the injured Chris Robshaw, a few eyebrows were raised when Dylan Hartley was offered the armband for the third Test. Granted, he lacked nothing in commitment, as shown in the first-half when he lost a boot and stayed in the thick of the action, but it will have surprised no-one when Hartley was shown the yellow card on 51 minutes for cynically failing to roll away. With Hartley off, England were forced into a major reshuffle and lost any momentum they could have gained with a full complement. He knows he wil need to cut out the disciplinary problems if he is to become a key senior player for England in the coming years.
Star man – Tom Johnson
At 29, Tom Johnson has come relatively late to the Test arena but Exeter Chiefs blindside Tom Johnson has rarely looked out of place. One missed tackle that led to Pietersen’s try could not blot the copybook of Johnson. Ubiquitous in his red scrum-cap, he covered the ground, hit the rucks, showed soft hands and generally made a nuisance of himself against the Springbok backrow, even forcing the odd turnover. He did more than enough to suggest he will at the forefront of Lancaster’s thoughts for the Autumn Tests.
Room for improvement
Both sides made too many elementary errors in a swirling, wet Port Elizabeth with spilt passes, knock-ons, poor kicks and missed tackles but most opprobrium was rained on Morne Steyn who was booed by his own fans for an ineffectual kicking game. The man who could not miss against the Lions in 2009 seems to have lost his confidence and a horribly skewed drop-goal late in the second-half seemed to sum up a worrying lack of self-belief.
South Africa ran 338 metres with the ball compared to 230 metres run by England.
Both sides made two clean breaks and beat thirteen defenders each.
South Africa made 106 tackles, missing 13 with a tackling success rate of 89.1% and England made 142 tackles, missing 13, for a tackling success rate of 91.6%.
Six players got into double figures for England, Dylan Hartley (10), Tom Palmer (15) Tom Johnson (14), James Haskell (17) and Thomas Waldrom (11). Geoff Parling came out top with 18 tackles.
Thomas Waldrom carried the ball furthest with 73 metres run, followed by Ben Foden on 30 metres. Gio Aplon was South Africa’s further carrier with 59 metres covered.
South Africa captain Jean De Villiers: “Credit to England. They played well. I thought we weren’t good at all tonight. We’ll have to take a hard look at ourselves. Our option-taking was poor at times. At least we didn’t lose the game – that’s the only positive we can take out of this.”
England coach Stuart Lancaster: “A couple of ill-disciplined pens didn’t go our way, but overall I’m delighted with the efforts the boys put in over the course of the tour. When you look at where we were and where we are now, I think we’re in a good place.”
South Africa: Gio Aplon; J P Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (c), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard (Ruan Pienaar 50); Tendai Mtawarira, B du Plessis (Adriaan Strauss 62), (Jannie du Plessis 75), Werner Kruger, Eben Etzebeth (Flip van der Merwe 62), Juandre Kruger, Marcel Coetzee, Jaques Potgieter (Ryan Kankowski 62), Pierre Spies.
Not used: Elton Jantjies, Bjorn Basson
Try: Pietersen. Pens: Steyn (3)
England: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Jonathan Joseph (Brad Barritt 65), Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden; Toby Flood (Owen Farrell 27), Danny Care; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (c) (Lee Mears 51-61), Dan Cole, Tom Palmer (Mouritz Botha 65), Geoff Parling, Tom Johnson (Phil Dowson 65), James Haskell, Thomas Waldrom.
Not used: Paul Doran Jones, Lee Dickson
Try: Care. Pens: Flood, Farrell (2)