BLOEMFONTEIN – The Springboks’ dominance over England in recent years continued when Rassie Erasmus’ team wrapped up the series against Eddie Jones’ team after winning the second Test in slightly more convincing style than the week before. It was England’s fifth Test defeat in a row.
In the first Test in Joburg the Boks came back from being 24-3 down to win 42-39 and last night they came back from being 12-0 down inside 15 minutes to triumph. This time the Boks scored 23 unanswered points in the final 56 minutes to render the third Test in Cape Town this coming weekend a largely academic affair.
While the Boks were perhaps not as thrilling as they were in their comeback in the first game, this week they kicked well, chased strongly and defended brilliantly after the initial lapses which again set them back. They were also strong in the set-pieces and, as requested by skipper Siya Kolisi, went the full distance.
It was again all England in the early stages, just as it had been in Joburg. Before 15 minutes were up the visitors had raced into a 12-0 lead after tries by wings Mike Brown and Jonny May; the Bok defence out wide again brutally exposed.
The Boks, though, did have the first chance of the game after Damian de Allende had intercepted a pass deep in his own half and raced upfield. But, instead of offloading to an open Lukhanyo Am, who would almost certainly have run in an easy try, the big centre was hauled in by Owen Farrell, the chance gone.
But after going behind – for the second week running – the Boks rallied and turned the game in their favour with some slick kicking, especially by Faf de Klerk – and quality chasing by the wings, and where England won a string of penalties in the opening exchanges, they again gave away plenty the longer the match went on.
And after setting up camp inside the England 22m area midway through the half and having a few goes at the tryline, the Boks finally broke through after a powerful run by 100-cap prop Tendai Mtawarira. After his initial charge upfield, the ball came out and it was left to Duane Vermeulen to bust three tackles on his way over the tryline. It was another impressive performance by the experienced No 8, who also starred in the first Test.
The Boks – as happened the week before – turned the game in their favour after the try and with momentum behind them piled the pressure on the visitors. England’s ill-discipline cost them penalties and Handré Pollard knocked over two shots at goal in the latter stages of the half to give the Boks a handy and deserved 13-12 lead at the interval.
But if the first half was an even contest the Boks completely dominated the second spell. Erasmus had called for greater intensity from his side this week and he got it; his men simply playing the visitors off their feet in the second 40.
And the replacements, when they came on, made an immediate impact; props Steven Kitshoff and Thomas du Toit helping their side win a penalty try after England had collapsed a scrum in the 50th minute. The seven-point score was massive for the home team as it allowed them to go 20-12 up and just about break England’s spirits. Akker van der Merwe, Jean-Luc du Preez and Jesse Kriel also later brought pace and power to the match; England having only one real try-scoring chance in the second spell, but Brad Shields dropped the ball over the line.
The England effort ended when Pollard struck a 67th minute penalty to get his team 11 points ahead and moments later replacement Nathan Hughes was sin-binned for England, all but ending their challenge.