A missed 77th minute penalty from flyhalf Handre Pollard and failed opportunities in the first half saw the Springboks start their end-of-the-year tour on a losing note by going down 12-11 to England at Twickenham on Saturday evening.
There was, however, big controversy in the final seconds when England flyhalf Owen Farrell made a no-arm shoulder charge on Bok replacement centre Andre Esterhuizen.
Referee Angus Gardner initially wanted to blow the final whistle before being advised by his assistant to just at least take a look on the replay.
Bafflingly, the Aussie ruled it as a fair tackle.
Nonetheless, the Boks can only blame themselves for their inaccuracy, with their handling in particular shocking.
They’ll also rue ceding momentum to England in the second half, which allowed the accurate boot of Farrell to flourish.
Who was the star in this match?
Bok rightwing S’bu Nkosi was absolutely superb upon his international return. Not only did he score the game’s only try in the 33rd minute, he was also very visible on defence and his anticipation from cross-kicks superb. The tackle on opposite number Jonny May was something to behold.
Key moments and themes
- Despite dominating the physical and territorial exchanges – even threatening to scrum England into submission – the Boks were only leading 8-6 at the break, a buffer that proved simply too small. Despite their general wastefulness, the three attacking lineouts that were overthrown by hooker Malcolm Marx were particularly vital. It meant South Africa lost attacking platforms. Marx has his virtues, but throwing is his basic function … and he failed.
- South Africa’s troubles were exemplified by them actually losing the 10-minute period of England lock Maro Itoje’s sin-binning for a professional foul. They failed to score any points, while England somehow managed to milk a penalty late in that period.
- Eben Etzebeth’s injury early in the second half will be of concern for Erasmus, especially with one of the other locks, Lood de Jager, only making his comeback on this tour. Incidentally, De Jager was culpable for losing the ball when the Boks were on the attack late in the second half, illustrating his rustiness.
- England deserve credit for taking their limited opportunities. They were nowhere in the first half, but they exploited some clumsy rush defence in the second 40 to give themselves momentum and also won a rare scrum penalty that proved the match-clincher. It showcased the nature of international rugby.
England – Penalties: Owen Farrell (3), Elliot Daly.
Springboks – Try: S’bu Nkosi. Penalties: Handre Pollard (2).