A more committed and clinical performance saw England defeat South Africa at a wet Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town.
The fixture may have been a dead rubber, after South Africa sealed the series in Bloemfontein, but there was still pride and and starting positions to play for. The scoreline below only gave England more confidence, and resulted in questions on the future of this 2018 Springboks group.
England Defeat South Africa
South Africa 10 – Try: Jesse Kriel; Conversion: Elton Jantjies; Penalties: Jantjies
England 25 – Try: Johnny May; Conversion: Owen Farrell; Penalties: Farrell (6)
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) June 23, 2018
RSAvENG Series – Key Thoughts
The Springboks conceded 15 penalties to England’s 8. Two silly offside penalties, two debatable penalties at scrum time and an abysmal day at the breakdown by the South Africans saw England handed the momentum at key times.
The Springboks discipline was quite frankly not good enough. Six successful penalties by Farell was the clear difference between the two teams.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 23, 2018
The Springbok Flyhalf debate
Many pundits were concerned when Elton Jantjies’ name was read out in the starting 15 on Thursday, with the knowledge that that this Test would be played in the wet. Jantjies was poor in this game. Two knock on’s, one when trying to exit the Springboks 22 and another when receiving a high kick cost his team dearly.
Jantjies was given the opportunity to prove that he is more than a front foot player who enjoys fast and dry pitches. He failed this test, and was probably lucky not to be subbed at half time.
Eramus tried to shift most of the blame for Jantjies performance to the forwards and the selection risk he took naming Jantjies to start in a wet Test. He rightly pointed out that Jantjes was always under pressure because of the dominance of the England pack. What was not stated was that a Test level flyhalf needs to adapt to that pressure, something that Jantjies did not do.
England dominance ‘up front’
England dominated the contact area by flooding players in at the breakdown. The Springboks have a lot to learn in this aspect of play as they did not protect their possession, conceding nine turnovers.
The Springboks maul was also easily handled by England. Erasmus will have a lot of work to do to add variety in this aspect of play. Changing angles of pressure or shifting the ball away from the original lineout take would add a lot more unpredictability to the maul.
Superior Kicking Game by England
England used the kicking game to play in the right areas of the field. Questions have to be asked of the Springboks insistence of kicking up and under’s from within their own 22. This ploy worked wonders in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, but didn’t work in Cape Town and it was the wrong exit plan for the conditions.
Last Word – Thoughts coming out of the Series
The nay-sayers will point out that Erasmus has a 50% win record and the incoming tour season was a failure. We cannot expunge the Test against Wales in Washington, but it was a futile exercise. Two training sessions does not result in a Test quality team.
England certainly gave the Springboks a big fright in all three games.
In two out of three Tests, the Springboks showed great resilience to fight back for the win. In the third Test, the England team played better in the conditions presented on the day.
It is far too early to make a judgement on the success of Erasmus’ coaching tenure of the strength of his his squad. He inherited a group of players who were lacking in confidence and had no structure to fall back on. What we have seen is a distinct step forward in the Springboks pattern of play and a willingness to be creative with ball in hand.
Defensively, they were exposed in the first quarter in the first two Tests. Defensive structures do not get created overnight. There is enough positive comment that can be made to believe that something special on the brew in the Springbok camp.
South African supporters must also not lose sight of the fact that; like most teams, the Springboks have an injury list of their own. Throw in the likes of a Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Warren Whiteley and, an Springbok squad takes on more quality and depth.
South Africa’s next Test will be against Argentina in Durban, on August 18. This will be a new challenge as The Rugby Championship is outside of the International window. That means the Springboks will be without the likes of Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen.
What challenges will that bring, for the 2018 Rugby Championship schedule of the South African team, under Rassie Erasmus?
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