Heyneke Meyer’s new breed of Springboks fell just short of their pre-series goal of a 3-0 whitewash, in conceding a 14-all draw to England at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In blustering wind and driving rain, the Boks failed to assert themselves against an English team who appeared far more “up for it” than their hosts were and, in reality, were rather fortunate to draw, rather than lose outright.
A combination of Bok woes handed the imitative to their opponents, with the loss of Willem Alberts a telling factor upfront as the pack generally lacked impetus against a far better showing in conditions that arguably suited the English better. It was at halfback, though, where the real damage was done, with both Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn delivering the sorts of performances that, if dished up in an All Black jersey, would probably ensure that they never played at that level again. Poor option-taking, woeful execution of tactical kicks and sloppy service were all there in abundance and in inside centre Wynand Olivier’s defence, even the likes of Sonny-Bill Williams or Frans Steyn would have battled to make anything of the dross ball inexpertly shovelled his way all afternoon.
Steyn’s sins extended beyond general play, though, where for the third time in as many weeks, his off-radar goal-kicking cost the side, with 11 points in missed kicks (including a wayward drop-goal attempt) more than enough to ensure some sort of a victory, which would have been a great result given this off-colour performance.
A general lack of intensity pervaded the Bok ranks, though, with senior players in particular looking out of sorts. Jacques Potgieter made a bright start to his international career and put in some big hits from the number 7 jersey, but was unable to maintain the intensity that we’d expect from an Alberts and was ineffective in the second half. His replacement, Ryan Kankowski, enjoyed a welcome return to the test arena, though and together with Ruan Pienaar gave Bok fans just a little to shout about in the final quarter.
The loss (well, not really a loss, but it feels like one and certainly based on the jubilation on the faces of the English, they seem to consider this result a victory) has left a bit of a sour taste at the end of a promising start to Meyer’s Bok tenure. While a 2-0 series win is still to be lauded, the signs ahead of the inaugural Rugby Championship are worrying, with a number of Meyer’s “go-to men” looking anything but must-have selections based on current form.
South Africa (14) – Try: JP Pietersen. Penalties: Morne Steyn (3).
England (14) – Try: Danny Care. Penalties: Toby Flood, Owen Farrell (2).Tweet