The Boks rose to the occasion and gave their fans the win they so hoped for, but dared not expect today. Despite not playing particularly well, the visitors ran out comfortable 21-11 victors, although a late intercept try by England meant the scoreboard flattered them to an extent.
The groundwork for the win was laid by the best overall performance we’ve seen from a Springbok pack this year. The Bok forwards were, quite simply, breathtaking, with Man of the Match Bismarck du Plessis and powerful flanker Juan Smith leading the charge. The Bok 8 quite literally steam-rolled their opposition in the tight exchanges and had it not been for some utterly woeful decision-making, passing and finishing amongst the backs – with Frans Steyn the worst culprit – a first half in which the men in green and gold enjoyed 65% of the possession would have produced more points for them. As it was, the deadlock half-time score of 6-all paid little credit to the men who had enjoyed the upper hand throughout those 40 minutes, but there was more to come from the Boks.
The introduction, yet again, of Willem Alberts for the once-more-invisible Deon Stagmann 10 minutes into the half seemed to galvanise the troops and the big man’s third try in three games (this one scored out on the right wing after a superb pass from Pierre Spies) put the Boks into a 14-6 lead, after Morne Steyn had earlier succeeded with his third penalty. After a frustrating evening where he had seen little ball and enjoyed no space in which to move, Lwazi Movvo finally opened his own test try-scoring account a few minutes later, as Ruan Pienaar and Steyn spun a good scrum-ball down the blind side. Mvovo, from a standing start, ran straight through four England defenders to touch down from 20 meteres out and set the Boks up with an unassailable 21-6 lead with ten minutes to play.
A third try – Mvovo’s second -went a begging a minute or two later when CJ van der Linde butchered an overlap, popping the ball into the hands of Ben Foden, who sprinted 80 metres to touch down on the other end, when an earlier pass to his unmarked winger would have resulted in a certain score.
For the Boks, there was much to smile about, yet still much cause for concern, with the backline again wooden, one-dimensional and inaccurate on attack. As for England, well – I think they lost this game in their heads during the week, since they clearly didn’t believe they would have to do much other than pitch up, in order to claim the win. They were wrong, and South Africa have no extended their unbeaten run against the men in white to seven games.
The question on every fans’ lips, though, will be whether Peter de Villiers and his coaching team have managed to secure a stay of execution by winning three test from four on this tour, that despite the team never quite dishing up a convincing performance. Only time will tell.
For now, though, let’s all celebrate another great Bok victory over England.
England – Penalties: Toby Flood (2), Try: Ben Foden.
South Africa – Tries: Willem Alberts, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalties: Steyn (3).