By Owain Jones, Rugby World Editor
In a nutshell
ENGLAND WERE blown away by South Africa in a typically ferocious encounter at altitude in Ellis Park, Johannesburg. The Springboks tore into England from the off, with their huge ball carriers, Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Pierre Spies repeatedly driving English defenders backwards. It was Alberts who scored first, sauntering over the line from a short distance. Du Plessis was next to crash over minutes later after more concerted pressure with impressive debutant Jonathan Joseph unlucky not to dislodge the ball after some fine defensive cover work. With the Springboks rampant, Francois Hougaard darted over from short range to leave the score 22-3 after the first quarter. Despite a Leicester-inspired try started off by the impressive Ben Youngs and finished by Toby Flood minutes later, England were still 15 points adrift as the half-time whistle went, trailing 25-10. In the second-half England rallied bravely, with two tries from Ben Youngs in the third quarter to reduce the score to seven points. With a further penalty by Flood, the deficit was cut to four points and England sniffed an unlikely victory. Sadly JP Pietersen had other ideas, quelling the uprising by scoring in the corner after an initial blistering break to leave South Africa winning battle, and the war.
After only three minutes, the Boks were awarded a scrum deep in England’s half. Francois Hougaard fed the ball in but it fizzed out the other side of the channel, crucially without being touched by the English front-row. Willem Alberts was quickest to pounce, and scored with consummate ease. Under IRB Law 20.7 the scrum should have been reset but referee Alain Rolland and assistant Steve Walsh missed it giving South Africa vital early points on the board.
Man of the Match: Bismarck du Plessis
Du Plessis put in a herculean shift for the Springbosk. The muscle-bound hooker, for so long understudy to John Smit, repeatedly drove the Boks deep into England territory swatting England defenders away, notably Geoff Parling, with worrying ease. It was a performance that consolidated his position as the world’s No 1 hooker and it was no coincidence the Springboks lost shape and momentum when he left the fray with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Room for improvement
Much like Wales last weekend against Australia, England were guilty of being far to sluggish in the opening quarter. They trailed 22-3 after just 18 minutes giving themselves far too much to do. They simply weren’t able to live with the aggressive ball carrying from the Springbok strike runners, falling off tackles too easily and allowing the offload as they were pummelled in the early opening exchanges. It was only in the second-half, with a raft of replacements from both sides, that England were able to gain a foothold and start the fightback.
In quotes – Winners
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer: “We lost our way a bit in the second half because our first-phase play wasn’t good enough and we made mistakes that allowed England back into the game, but we played really great rugby in the first half. In that period we showed glimpses of what we are capable of and where we want to go as a team.”
In quotes – Losers
England coach Stuart Lancaster: “We were disappointed with the start, to give them 12 points before we got going, We know we’ve got to be better in all the little details that make the difference in winning at international level. Before half-time was the time we needed to get a foothold in the game.”
Match in stats
England made 90 tackles, missing 18, a conversion rate of 83.3% compared to the Springboks who made 61 tackles and missed six, with a conversion rate of 91%
Geoff Parling was England’s top tackler with 12 followed closely by Tom Johnson with 11. No South African player made it into double-figures with Marcel Coetzee the highest on seven
Both sides made three clean breaks, but South Africa beat 18 defenders to England’s 6
JP Pietersen had the best running stats, carrying the ball 79 metres. For England Ben Foden carried 58 metres followed closely by Manu Tuilagi on 53.
England: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Jonathan Joseph (Alex Goode 78), Manu Tuilagi, David Strettle (Owen Farrell 60); Toby Flood, Ben Youngs (Lee Dickson 75); Joe Marler (Alex Corbisiero 56), Dylan Hartley (Lee Mears 75), Dan Cole, Mouritz Botha (Tom Palmer 44), Geoff Parling, Tom Johnson, Chris Robshaw (capt), Ben Morgan (Thomas Waldrom 47)
Tries: Flood, Youngs (2). Pens: Flood (2) Cons: Flood (3)
South Africa: Pat Lambie (Wynand Olivier 44); J P Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (capt), Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana (Ruan Pienaar 57); Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard; Tendai Mtawarira, B du Plessis (Adriaan Strauss 61), Jannie du Plessis (Werner Kruger 62) Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger (Flip van der Merwe 62) Marcel Coetzee, Willem Alberts (Keegan Daniel 52), Pierre Spies.
Not used: Bjorn Basson
Tries: Alberts, BW Du Plessis, F Hougaard. Pens: Morne Steyn (3). Cons: Morne Steyn (2) Drop Goal: Morne Steyn (1)