at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
South Africa (25) 36
Tries: Alberts, Du Plessis, Hougaard, Pietersen; Conversions: Steyn (2); Penalties: Steyn (3); Drop-goal: Steyn
England (10) 27
Tries: Flood, Youngs (2); Conversions: Flood (3); Penalties: Flood (2)
TALK about edge of the seat stuff. The Springboks may have scraped home here on Saturday to wrap up the series against England, but they will be hugely disappointed in their second half showing, which nearly allowed the visitors to come away with a win which at half-time looked well beyond their reach.
The Boks should never have got into so much trouble late in the game, not after dominating the first half and changing sides 25-10 to the good. They continued where they had left off in Durban a week earlier by completely out-playing their opponents, but a drop in intensity and concentration in the second spell allowed England to get back in the game and nearly grab an unlikely win.
With less than 10 minutes remaining the Boks enjoyed just a four-point lead, but a fantastic break-out from their own half ended with JP Pietersen scoring with seven minutes remaining, giving the Boks a little breathing space, and they hung on to seal the deal.
Whatever was said to the Boks at half-time by coach Heyneke Meyer never worked because in the second 40 minutes the hosts were half the side they were in the first period. At one stage during the opening 40 minutes one wondered whether a record win was on the cards, so dominant and impressive were the hosts.
After an outstanding opening passage in which the Boks held on to the ball through several phases, Willem Alberts scored on three minutes and five minutes later Bismarck du Plessis got his team’s second. Their ball control, handling and option-taking was out of the top drawer, but most impressive was their patience with ball in hand.
The Bok forwards were in a class of their own and their pick-and-go, phase-upon-phase style never allowed England to fully get into the game. The visitors were asked to make tackle upon tackle but with the likes of Du Plessis, Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Pierre Spies running at them their defence was never going to hold. And when England did get the ball they were hit back in almost every tackle; Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and Beast Mtawarira especially lethal.
The Boks were in complete control after the first quarter when Francois Hougaard got his team’s third try, with England getting on the board through flyhalf Toby Flood who kicked a penalty and got a lucky try when the Boks were caught napping.
The great rugby of the first half, though, was nowhere in the second period and all credit to England for fighting back as well as they did.
Flood was excellent at flyhalf and so was scrumhalf Ben Youngs who got two second half tries.
Meyer won’t be happy with his team’s showing in the second period, but then it was also his decision to make a string of changes around the 60-minute mark which didn’t help the Boks’ cause. Only some strong late defending, and a real desire not to give it away, saved the Boks from an embarrassing defeat.
Several Boks stood out in the first period, Morné Steyn being one of them, but he faded in the second spell and his errant goal-kicking was again a cause for concern.
The series is wrapped up and it’s two out of two for the Boks, and Meyer, but this was not a performance that will make him sleep comfortably. – Sunday Independent