Messy Boks can’t make it count
A catalogue of errors at Twickenham sees a chance for Rassie’s men to claim the scalp of England go begging
ENGLAND: (6) 12 SOUTH AFRICA: (8) 11
SELDOM in the field of rugby conflict has a team so butchered a game as the Springboks did against an outgunned England at Twickenham yesterday.
For 50 minutes of the match the beefy Bok pack bullied their opponents but almost every time they had smashed their way into a position to score points they cocked it up. Monumentally.
It was agonising to watch, and with each lineout over throw, each unforced handling error, the gutsy home side clawed their way out of jail to eventually snatch a victory Eddie Jones would have savoured long into the night, especially after a probable minor coronary at the very death of the game when referee Angus Gardener reviewed a high and armless hit on Andre Esterhuizen by Owen Farrell, only to fail to nail the England captain.
The penalty that should have been given was in easy range for Handre Pollard...
But it did not go the Boks way. It really was one of those days. When the South Africans were not shooting themselves in the foot they were having the rub of the green go the opposition way.
Three minutes before the end, a Pollard penalty to win the game shaved an upright, a foot to the left and the Boks would have won. But it should never have come down to that penalty or the referee’s shocker at the end ...
A prime indication of how this Bok team got out of bed on the wrong side was Malcolm Marx’s shocker of a performance. The unfortunate hooker had earlier in the week been named as a contender for World Rugby Player of the Year. He came with a big reputation but could hardly do a thing right.
Three of his lineout throws went way over the top of everybody, each when the Boks were within metres of the England line. He also made a number of handling errors.
On the subject of those lineout mishaps, two of those lineouts should not have taken place. The Boks had been awarded penalties near the line and surely the wiser decision would have been to take the scrum. The Boks set scrum was heavily dominant and quality ball would have been guaranteed...
As early as the fifth minute, the first opportunity the forwards had to rumble it up from a lineout, England conceded a penalty for Pollard to convert into points.
It all looked so simple, and it should have been.
The pressure on England mounted in those early stages and in the 15th minute Maro Itoje was sin-binned for a shocking offside tackle. There had been a brilliant cross kick to the corner flag by Pollard where Sbu Nkosi showed remarkable aerial skills to pluck it out of the air. He fell short of the line and when Ivan Van Zyl picked it up to dive over, he was pounced on by Itoje.
But then followed one of the lineout overthrows, and five minutes later, Farrell levelled the scores.
The next Bok blunder saw a forward freight train rolling inexorably towards the line only for it to be derailed not by England but by the ball being clumsily dropped.
On the half hour mark, the Boks managed to get something right. Damian de Allende, probably the best Bok on the day, split the defence and when he was brought down, a host of Boks players skilfully shuffled the ball until it found Sbu Nkosi out wide, and he finished brilliantly, his third Test try against the English.
But England hit back with a Farrell penalty. They had only two opportunities to get points in the first and they took them both for their six points. The Boks had just two more points at half time from a plethora of opportunities.
And in the 50th minute England, unbelievably, took the lead through a 50m Elliot Daly penalty.
For the first time the 82 000 crowd found its voice, breaking into
Suddenly the momentum was with an England side which had begun to believe they could pull it off.
With 15 minutes to go the Boks won a breakdown penalty thanks to pressure from Thomas du Toit, and Pollard coolly slotted the points to nudge the Boks ahead at 11-9.
But England were finding space out wide, especially with some of the Bok defenders rashly rushing out of line. And their scrum was finding heart and there was an inevitability about Du Toit conceding a scrum penalty. Farrell duly put his team ahead 12-11 to set up a dramatic final 10 minutes.
Scorers England: Springboks: