Bok character trumps English passion

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The Boks celebrate after their one-point win over England.

THREE out of three! That’s all that matters today. The conditions were atrocious, and the Boks’ performance wasn’t much better, but they won and finish the season on a high. It took another outstanding defensive effort by Jean de Villiers and his men to see off a fired up England here on Saturday ... but if the Boks were bad, England were terrible.

England dominated possession and territory and had a chance to win the game at the death, but instead of kicking to touch to set up a line-out and give themselves a chance of scoring a try, they opted to kick a penalty to close to within a point of the Boks. They obviously knew they weren’t going to breach the Bok defence because they tried all afternoon to do it, but with no success. But it was a gutless decision.

The Boks were pretty much outplayed in all departments and were never on top of England, yet somehow they managed to stay in the game and lead for the better part of it. It was again a case of Bok character outdoing England’s passion.

De Villiers said on Friday he would take a one-point win anytime he plays and that’s exactly what he got on Saturday. It doesn’t matter how it came about. The history books will tell that the Boks went unbeaten in Europe in 2012 and that should be good enough.

The pride, passion and willingness to put bodies on the line is also back. Was it ever gone?

De Villiers’ men struggled throughout the encounter, with England enjoying the majority of possession and they also pinned the Boks in their half for long periods, especially in the first half, but the Bok defence was again outstanding. England also didn’t do themselves any justice with ball in hand ... their attack was extremely predictable throughout.

But their coach, Stuart Lancaster, promised a fired-up England and that they were. They dominated the collisions and they enjoyed superiority in the scrums, Alex Corbisiero giving Jannie du Plessis a torrid time.

It must be said, though, referee Nigel Owens was, as usual, his pedantic self and one got the sense that England at times got away with murder at the set-piece.

England also found some gaping holes in the Bok defence, with only some quality scrambling by the visitors keeping their hosts out. De Villiers, for one, pulled off a great tackle on Alex Goode midway through the first half, which almost certainly denied England a try.

It wasn’t all bad from the Boks, though. They had their moments and probably shaded the line-outs.

With the Boks suffering at the hands of Corbisiero and Owens, they opted for line-outs, instead of scrums, when they could and as the half went on they got more into the game. But with little momentum or go-forward, they battled to assert themselves in any area and had to rely on winning penalties, which Pat Lambie slotted each time he got a chance.

The fact the Boks led at half-time was quite remarkable considering how poorly they played. But it also shows just how poor this England team actually are ... they dominated the first 40 yet trailed at the break.

And matters got worse for Lancaster and his men soon after the restart when Willem Alberts scored a rather fortuitous try in the 44th minute, after the ball had been hacked ahead by JP Pietersen just for it to bounce off an England player and become available for the Bok flanker to snap it up and go over. But while the momentum seemed to have switched the Boks’ way, it was England who continued to ask more with ball in hand.

The Boks, though, asked a few more questions than in the first half, with Lambie’s chip kicks into space well executed, while the kick-and-chase game also put them into good spaces. But the Boks gave away too many scrum and breakdown penalties.

The Boks hung on ... and yes, this was no performance to get excited about, but it was a win and, again, that’s all that matters. – Sunday Independent


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