The England head coach was philosophical after an agonising 16-15 defeat to South Africa
Steve Borthwick was philosophical after England’s semi-final loss to South Africa, suggesting in time he will be able to find a seed from adversity that will help his side become brilliant.
Borthwick’s side led for 75 minutes of Saturday night’s semi-final after a tactical masterclass strangled the Springboks, who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, having been 15-6 down with 11 minutes to go before RG Snyman’s try and Handre Pollard’s 78th-minute penalty ensured the 2019 champions will get the chance to defend their title against New Zealand.
Pollard’s winning kick came from the fourth consecutive scrum penalty that England conceded as South Africa’s Bomb Squad, particularly props Ox Nche and Vincent Kock, flipped the game on its head with England replacements Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler faring badly at the set-piece.
In his post-match press conference, Borthwick said: “It hurts for all of us. In adversity in these tough times, there’s usually a seed in there that will grow and become brilliant in the future. Right now it’s too early for me to find that seed, but we will make sure we find it and make sure we grab that and make it stronger in the future.”
Borthwick said he was incredibly proud of his players who came so close to causing an almighty World Cup upset, falling just short in a game which they had been given little to no chance of winning after a mixed World Cup.
He added: “I think the whole team performance was strong. We came with a plan to win the game but we fell a little bit short. But the players should be incredibly proud.
“That 23, seven players are 25 or under, the most of any semi-finalist, so there’s a great blend and there will be lots of things we can take forward. We put ourselves in a position to win against the world champions.”
Borthwick refused to engage when asked about the scrum penalties that led to England’s semi-final loss, but re-emphasised how his side were playing against a settled South African coaching team while he has only been in the role since the start of the year.
“As for the gameplan, we’re playing against a coaching team who have been in place since 2018. We’ve had four months,” said Borthwick. “I’ve asked the players to approach training and the game in a different way; for the players to be willing to change is all credit to them. Tonight was another example of that.”