CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will have a much better idea of the quality of his depth, and also the tactics he needs to employ in wet conditions after his team slipped and slid their way to a 25-10 defeat to England at Newlands on Saturday night.
The result means that the Boks were unable to secure a series whitewash, but considering the lack of preparation time and beginning a brand new era under Erasmus, he would’ve accepted the 2-1 outcome at the start of June.
But after heavy rain throughout the day ensured that match would be significantly affected – even the Bok impi warriors slipped when running on to the field before the start – it was always going to be difficult to hold on to the ball.
Both teams battled to find their rhythm in the opening 40 minutes and made a number of handling errors, but the difference proved to be England captain Owen Farrell’s boot, as he slotted two penalties to the one of Elton Jantjies – who had also missed a fairly easy three-pointer – to give the visitors a 6-3 halftime advantage.
It was actually the South Africans who came out with a much clearer plan after the break, and they showed what could be achieved by keeping things simple, yet effective, even when holding on to the ball in wet weather.
Centre Jesse Kriel found space out wide to get into the English half, and after a couple of rumbles up the middle by Steven Kitshoff and Thomas du Toit kept the Boks going forward, fullback Warrick Gelant showed his class with a perfect grubber that sat up for Kriel to score.
Suddenly the Boks were up 10-9, and it looked like they were going to take charge from that point.
But the English handled the slippery conditions much better than the home side, as they generally kept the ball close to the forwards and put in big hits in defence to squirt the ball out of Bok hands.
Big No 8 Nathan Hughes was prominent in that regard, with the hard-working Chris Robshaw and Maro Itoje not far behind. The first-half problems resurfaced for Siya Kolisi’s team, and they were penalised heavily at the breakdown by New Zealand referee Glenn Jackson.
It was a day to forget for flyhalf Elton Jantjies, as he struggled to take control and also had a kick charged-down that led to three points for England, while halfback partner Faf de Klerk also didn’t get enough distance or height on his box-kicks.
Erasmus will be encouraged by Gelant’s display, especially when the Bulls fullback took on the defence with ball-in-hand. Kriel – although he perhaps passed too early in the first half to Sbu Nkosi after cutting the line – made a number of strong runs, and the same can be said of Kitshoff, who surely deserves a start in the next Bok Test.
But England finished things off in style with a couple of late Farrell penalties, while wing Jonny May chased down Danny Cipriani’s impressive cross-kick to secure victory.
So, Erasmus will be the wiser ahead of the Rugby Championship, but will be concerned about his team’s untidy performance in their third Test week (the Welsh Test was played by a different side) ability to execute and mix things up in the wet.
Springboks 10 – Try: Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Elton Jantjies (1). Penalty: Jantjies (1).
England 25 – Try: Jonny May. Conversion: Owen Farrell (1). Penalties: Farrell (6).