2022 England vs South Africa

Sublime South Africa Trounces Sloppy England, Begins Prep For WC Defense

Sublime South Africa Trounces Sloppy England, Begins Prep For WC Defense

South Africa’s Autumn Nations Series has been inconsistent and filled with near misses and tight encounters. The team ended its season Saturday on a high.

Nov 27, 2022 by RugbyPass
Sublime South Africa Trounces Sloppy England, Begins Prep For WC Defense

South Africa’s Autumn Nations Series has been inconsistent, filled with near misses and tight encounters, but on Saturday, the team ended its season on a high, blowing apart England at a tepid Twickenham, 27-13.

From the first minute, the green and gold army fronted up physically, battering its opponent at the set piece to the point where referee Angus Gardner’s whistle became a backing track to the on-field action.

The strength of the Springboks pack is well-documented. However, the extent of their dominance truly was something to behold. 

For the opening 40 minutes, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler were outclassed at the scrum and penalized incessantly. They were given no room to breathe and, even when a full front row was introduced after the break, the same fate befell the team.

South Africa was simply too strong and technically proficient at the set piece. England backpedaled in the scrum and was choked out by the impressive line-speed in the Springboks defense.

Whereas, last week, England managed to concoct fast-paced attack against New Zealand, this week, England struggled to string just a couple of phases together.

Fronted by a fired up Faf de Klerk, the visitors flew up in the faces of their foes and stifled any ball from heading out wide. The tactic was simple, but brilliantly executed and effectively hamstrung Eddie Jones’ side, which looked flustered and committed handling errors and made poor decisions, which ultimately led to their downfall.

Jones now has overseen England’s worst run since 2008, losing six of its last 12 tests, and he accepted blame for the result.

“We didn't land a shot like we wanted to,” Jones said. “You have to win contests, and we didn't win in the air or the set piece, so it's hard to get in the game. I have coached for a number of years, and I believe I can coach well. We didn't play well today, and I apologize for that, it's entirely my fault. Obviously on results, we are not happy, but I feel like we are building a really good base to have a really good go at the World Cup.”

But take nothing away from South Africa.

The Springboks were simply sublime and closed their season on a high, having suffered close losses to Ireland and France at the start of November.

Those results are nothing to be ashamed of – the two European nations are arguably the best international outfits at present, and the Springboks lost to both by less than five points.

With the World Cup now less than a year away, and the reigning champions set to face Ireland in Pool B, their performances will have to match that of what they put out against England.

Brawn and brute force are the hallmarks of South African rugby, and no player epitomized that more in the early exchanges at Twickenham than prop Frans Malherbe. He bullied Vunipola in the scrum, at one point sending his opposite man flying uncontrollably into the turf.

South Africa looked disciplined and tempered. England, meanwhile, looked flustered and unorganized. 

Owen Farrell, carrying an ankle injury from last weekend, uncharacteristically missed two first-half penalties, while miscommunication between the usually reliable Freddie Steward and Tommy Freeman, who was making his first international appearance this autumn, caused numerous dropped balls.

Jack Nowell replaced Freeman at halftime, bringing an end to an error strewn display. 

Why Jones chose to bring the Northampton Saints winger into the fore against a premium kicking side, without test-match preparation, is a mystery.

Indeed, South Africa’s kicking game was expertly executed and starkly highlighted the misdemeanors of England in the same department. Too often, Marcus Smith launched the ball skyward, overhitting the kick out of reach for Jonny May and Steward, who struggled to compete for the aerial ball.

A kick of this nature resulted in the opening try. 

With the ball soaring into the 22, Damian Willemse collected the kick and had time to step Steward, before finding space to attack down the right.

Willie le Roux provided a support line and collected the offload from his fly-half, before shipping the ball to Kurt-Lee Arendse. With just Smith to beat, the winger delicately feigned inside before stepping wide and finishing in the corner.

The try came from nothing and was manufactured by three of the most competent attacking players in international rugby.

In an attempt to counterbalance the scales, Jones brought on an entirely new front row at the start of the second half, but little changed. The scrum still was overpowered, and penalties continued to rain in.

Things quickly got worse for the hosts when Eben Etzebeth crossed over from close range, following an ill-advised intervention from Jonny Hill. The second row managed to get a penalty overturned for yanking De Klerk by his collar, right under the nose of the referee. His stupidity was naïve and resulted in a Springbok try shortly after.

Barring a moment of madness from replacement prop Thomas du Toit, who received a red card for a high shot on Luke Cowan-Dickie, South Africa looked in complete control for the remainder of the test. Even a man down the Springboks suffocated England, which had to wait until the 71st minute for a score from Henry Slade. But, this time, there was no heroic comeback.

The loss places more pressure on Jones, who is sitting in even murkier water heading into the Six Nations. 

Meanwhile Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus can rest assured they have the necessary tools, and the match momentum, to compete at next year’s World Cup.

Written by Stefan Frost