SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

18 June 2012

South Africa: Springboks Secure Series Against England

It was a game of two halves as the Springboks secured a series victory over England with a 36-27 win in the second test in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The first half belonged to South Africa and the second to England, until a brilliant try set up and scored by JP Pietersen settled the outcome.

The home team performed the basics superbly in the first half, but it was those same basics that were missing after the break which allowed the English back into the game.

Springbok coach Heynecke Meyer commented after the game: "In the first half there were glimpses of where we want to go and I thought we played awesome rugby. We lost a bit of momentum in the second half, but that's no excuse.

'A few great moments'

"I thought England really played well, but we gave them unnecessary tries. But I'm happy about the win. There were a few great moments, but it's only two weeks [that we've been together] and there's still a long way to go."

"Proud and frustrated in equal measure, I guess," England coach Stuart Lancaster said of his team's performance.

"We can't come here and concede 12 points [so early in the game] like that, and at 25-10 [at half-time] we were hanging on, but we got an early score in the second half and that gave us a bit of belief. As that belief grew, our attacking game grew, and we exerted a bit of pressure on South Africa and we got back to 31-17.

"We're in the game aren't we? We're attacking down the wing, there are small margins [between winning and losing] and South Africa scored again. I'm very proud, but there's a lot we can improve on."

'A very close game in the end'

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said: "I thought we played some great rugby in the first half, but credit must go to England for coming back, for never giving up, and [it was] a very close game in the end."

"Credit to the Springboks on winning the series 2-0. We're going to have to play for pride next week," England skipper Chris Robshaw commented.

Whereas the replacements in Durban played a big role in helping South Africa to victory, many of them were required to come on as injury replacements as opposed to impact players in Johannesburg and this had a disruptive effect on the home team.

Juandre Kruger, Willem Alberts and Patrick Lambie were all forced from the field and their participation in the third test is uncertain. Frans Steyn will definitely miss the match because it clashes with his wedding.

England scrumhalf Ben Youngs played until six minutes from time, but after the game an examination of a shoulder injury led to him being ruled out of the rest of England's tour.

Tight scrums

Up front, tighthead prop Jannie Du Plessis underlined his value; once he was substituted, the South African scrum lost its stability. Alex Corbisiero, too, on as a substitute for England on the loosehead side, made his mark.

Willem Alberts was again influential as a ball carrier, while Pierre Spies enjoyed a good game with ball in hand.

Scrumhalf Francois Hougaard lifted his game substantially from his performance in the first test. His service was far quicker and crisper and his kicking game more accurate.

Unfortunately, his halfback partner, Morne Steyn, continued to struggle with his goal kicking and that remains a concern, although one expects Steyn to come right sooner rather than later, based on his track record.

De Villiers and Steyn in the midfield stood up well to the big boy England centres, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph. Bryan Habana was quiet, but his fellow wing, JP Pietersen, provided the highlight of the contest with his try.

At fullback, Patrick Lambie was solid, but an ankle injury undermined his attacking play and led to him departing the match early.

Started like a house on fire

The Springboks started Saturday's showdown like a house on fire, forcing their way deep into English territory as they maintained possession through numerous phases. Bryan Habana made it up to the five-metre line before offloading to Bismarck du Plessis, who was blown up for a knock on.

That didn't stop the Boks, however, as the ball passed right through the subsequent scrum and Alberts picked it up unchallenged before crashing over for a very easy try.

Only four minutes later, Bismarck du Plessis scored the second South African try by bashing his way over right next to the uprights after some strong forward play from the home team. Steyn added the extras to make it 12-0.

England netted their first points after nine minutes through a Toby Flood penalty, but the momentum remained with the Springboks.

After a kick through from Pietersen, a great follow up by captain De Villiers forced Youngs to dot the ball down behind the England try line, giving South Africa a five-metre scrum. The home side forced a penalty from the set piece and Steyn landed the easy kick to make the score South Africa 15, England 3 after only 15 minutes.

Wrong-footed the defence

De Villiers and co surged onto the attack once more and scored their third try in the 18th minute. The forwards made the hard yards up to the England try line before Hougaard showed off his fast feet by wrong footing the close-in defence before dotting down. A successful conversion by Steyn made it 22-3.

England responded with a try in the 23rd minute thanks to some quick thinking from Youngs. He took a penalty quickly and passed inside to winger Chris Ashton, who made it close to the Springbok try line before passing to Flood, who spun out of a desperate cover tackle from Habana to score. He converted his own try to make it 22-10.

Again, South Africa swung onto the attack. They moved the ball from left to right, but England were organised and not conceding much ground. Recognising this, flyhalf Steyn dropped into the pocket behind a ruck and calmly slotted a drop goal to put the Boks 15 points clear at 25-10.

Five minutes from the break, a clever grubber from Frans Steyn was collected by De Villiers only five metres from the English try line. He got off a pass to Pietersen, but the winger was unable to hang onto it and South Africa missed out on a fourth try.

Statistical dominance

At half-time, the statistic that best revealed South Africa's dominance was that of territory, with the home team having played 90 percent of the game in the English half.

The Springboks looked odds-on to score six minutes into the second half when they made their way up to the England try line, but English skipper Robshaw prevented any possibility of a try being scored by going offside to make a tackle that stopped the ball being passed out to the backline. Steyn, however, landed a penalty to extend the South African advantage to 28-10.

South Africa's first poor lineout of the match saw England score their second try. The ball was overthrown and scrumhalf Youngs, standing at the back of the lineout, snatched it out of the air and dived for the line. Alberts and Hougaard made a desperate attempt to stop him grounding the ball, but the television match official decided that Youngs had just managed to get it down.

Flood converted the try to make it 28-17.

Just before the hour-mark, Steyn added three more points to the South African tally after England were penalised at a scrum.

Third English try

Shortly after that, though, England hit back with their third try. After a very strong maul, the tourists found themselves just a metre from the South African try line. They moved the ball to the right and Youngs then hit back, diving over to the left of a ruck to score.

Flood's successful conversion moved England to within a converted try of South Africa, with the score at 31-24.

Another penalty by Flood, after England had destroyed the Springboks in a set scrum, made the contest very tight, with the home team leading 31-27.

With eight minutes to go, England were right in the game, but some magic from JP Pietersen gave South Africa some breathing room.

Weaving run

Jonathan Joseph kicked onto the right winger, who fielded the ball close to the South African 10-metre line. Running at pace, he, incredibly, weaved his way through eight potential tacklers before being brought down five metres inside the England 22.

The ball was moved left and then right, with the forwards bashing it up with short passes. Spies made ground close to the English tryline and the ball was then passed to the blind side where quick hands from De Villiers put Pietersen in the clear to score.

Steyn failed to convert, but England could not find a response and South Africa secured a 36-27 victory and a series win.

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