Cape Town – South Africa’s traditional power game quickly
coming to the fore under new management earned mostly generous praise in top
London newspapers after England were seen off in the first Test at Mr Price
Kings Park on Saturday.
While there was widespread acknowledgement that the Springboks
were good value for their 22-17 victory, UK scribes on tour also didn’t quite
write off the chances of the visitors bouncing back in the three-Test series.
The “abrasive thrust of Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis
and the new wing forward Marcell Coetzee” earned approval from Eddie Butler in
“South Africa only had a few days under their new coach
Heyneke Meyer, but they were obviously going for a combination of daring from
deep and battering in confined space.
“(England) are perhaps going to have to bring forward the
plans to expand their game: Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt in the centre pose
little threat other than the physical, and in this land of the lustfully direct
they play into the hands of the masters.”
In the same paper, Robert Kitson wrote that this was a
“downbeat, sobering start” to England’s expedition.
“South Africa were rusty and fitful, yet still managed a
victory that was reeled in more comfortably than the final score-line might
“They have now won the past eight games between the
countries and will push on into double figures this month unless the tourists
sharpen up quickly ... the Springboks have had a sniff of blood.”
Mick Cleary of the Daily Telegraph said: “South Africa is
different - edgy, harsh and dangerous. And that’s just its rugby. The country
itself is beautiful, vivid and varied.
“The rugby is monochrome: mean, brutal, one-dimensional but
effective. England were pounded by wave after wave of green shirts.
“The Springbok power game eventually took its toll, England
being forced to back-pedal.”
But it wasn’t all bouquets for the Boks: also in the
Telegraph, former England and Lions lock Paul Ackford had some reservations
about South Africa’s halfbacks.
“(Morne) Steyn has no pretensions as a playmaker ... dull.
(Francois) Hougaard needs to learn game management.”
Meanwhile Ian Stafford of the Daily Mail seemed to suggest
England’s goose wasn’t yet cooked.
“Stuart Lancaster’s inexperienced team can still travel to
Johannesburg for the second Test confident that the series is far from over,
having emerged from their ordeal in the ‘Shark Tank’ with many positives.
“If this predominantly young team go on to glory at the 2015
World Cup on home soil, they will look back on challenges like this as crucial