New respect: that’s what Springbok rugby commands from the British press after their record 42-6 thrashing of dazed and damned England at Twickenham.
In the lead-up, some London papers had given the home side half a chance, based on lethargic Bok showings against Wales and Scotland. By Sunday, they had dramatically changed their tune.
Rob Houwing writes for Sport24 that Patrick Collins of The Mail on Sunday wrote: “The South Africans capered through the freezing dusk with a spring in their heels and the promise of a long and lively night ahead.
“England were overcome by a team who did the simple things much better; assessing situations, punching holes with their big men, liberating the people of blinding pace. And always thinking, thinking, thinking. It was wonderfully impressive.”
Former England and Lions lock Paul Ackford, in the Sunday Telegraph, pulled few punches in his assessment of his own nation’s showing.
‘Magnificent in collisions’
“Humiliation … this was the shambles of Australia (14-28 a week earlier) revisited with bells on,” he said.
“The England forwards may have won more possession than South Africa but at what cost? Whenever a ball emerged from a breakdown on England’s side, it did so with four or five forwards in white shirts flat on their arses while the Boks, having committed one or two at most, were marshalling their defence.
“(It) was out of this world. Schalk Burger, Bakkies Botha and Pierre Spies were magnificent in the collisions, but even the little guys showed what they could do.
“In the last quarter Bryan Habana was knocking people off their feet with the timing and speed of his rush defence.”
The Observer’s Michael Aylwin said South Africa “never turn on the style until they know the opposition are beaten – and if they know it early enough the subsequent scoreline can get ugly”.
“They were content to sit back and watch England’s enthusiastic efforts (in the first half), almost holding them at arm’s length like a schoolyard bully while the victim thrashes at the air.”
Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times was renowned as a southern hemisphere rugby cynic during England’s short reign at the top of the world pile in the early 2000s.
But he seems to have turned full circle, judging by his comments on Sunday after also witnessing the All Blacks beat Wales: “What was remarkable about South Africa and New Zealand was their exuberance.
“We are grimly used to watching European teams touring at the end of the northern hemisphere season on their last legs, with feeble teams, and frankly trying to do nothing more than emerge with less than a 50-point hammering.
“(On Saturday) it seemed as if New Zealand and South Africa had by far the fresher legs, which was absolutely staggering.
“It could be that this weekend represents the high water mark in all of rugby history in terms of the superiority of the major southern hemisphere teams over the north.”
Bemoaning the absence of England’s Johnson and Dallaglio-era toughness in the engine room, Jones observed: “One growl from South Africa up front, and England ran a mile.”Tweet