>> Guscott: Te’o must be more aggressive
This was not a vintage England performance but they got the win with a huge defensive display to shut the Boks out while keeping their discipline not to infringe. High penalty counts had been the undoing of England last season but their composure at the death prevailed, although Owen Farrell can count himself lucky he did not throw the game away with that challenge on Andre Esterhuizen.
I was excited to see this back line in action as it was a midfield I had been waiting for. Whether it be Ben Te’o or Manu Tuilagi at No.12, I am a big advocate of having a punchier, more aggressive midfield runner who can get across the gain line and set up quick ball by hitting hard and having the forwards blowing over.
But it was a shame it took so long for England to bring Te’o into the game. England didn’t get into the South African 22 until the 44th minute which was not the plan.
Box kicking took over and England couldn’t keep hold of the ball so what we were left with was watching the new midfield in defence. In that respect, certainly in the first half, we saw Henry Slade coming up quickly to try and block the outside channel.
It meant the South African passing had to be accurate with the threat of interception, and by and large it forced the Boks back inside where the defensive cover was. It was hard to see any differences in the defensive shape, it looked the same with Slade charging up like Jonathan Joseph does when he is in the 13 shirt. We will see that evolve with John Mitchell taking over that department and I still think the England midfield can help the for- wards out more in leading them up quicker.
It worked reasonably well but looking at Te’o in this game, I would like him to be more aggressive. I think if Owen Farrell were to put the ball in front of him more he would be forced to take it at speed and will be more aggressive from the start. Some of the passes he received were hitting him where he was without forcing him to pick up speed and carry it into contact.
He’ll have a bigger impression on the game and leave a bigger footprint like he did when he was a ‘finisher’ coming on fresh. Everyone remembered his powerful runs that saw him smash people out the way. He needs to do that from the get-go and the best way is to lead him onto it.
Slade had a couple of nice touches outside him and his neat grubber through in the first half could have sat up nicely for Jonny May on another day.
But overall I felt England lost the collisions in the first half because they seemed to stand and wait rather than up their defensive line speed to get in Bok faces, with Damian De Allende the main beneficiary. But the dynamic was different in the second half and England exploited the extra space they were afforded. They won more quick ball and looked dangerous when it was put through the hands.
Maro Itoje’s burst should have been rewarded with some points and England will be kicking themselves for not capitalising on their chances. Farrell’s break which led to Daly’s burst could have sent May clear, but Daly stepped inside and it would have been a miracle catch and pass from the Wasps man as the defender came in – the ball would probably have hit the
More aggression needed: Ben Te’o has to take the ball at pace for maximum destruction