3 things learned from England v South Africa

2018-11-03 21:30
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Twickenham - England ground out a gritty 12-11 victory over South Africa in their one-off Test at Twickenham on Saturday.

Three things learned from the match:

Farrell's steady hands integral to England victory

Owen Farrell's value to England was encapsulated in the first-half not only landing two long range penalties to keep them in touch but also in making some important clearing kicks in what was only his third start under Eddie Jones at flyhalf. The 27-year-old also was alert enough to gather a line out ball from Malcolm Marx's loose throw in close to the England line. His calmness at fly-half steadied those less experienced heads around him and took the sting out of his opponents. His late block on Andre Esterhuizen could have been costly but his relief was evident as he pumped his fist on the referee declaring the tackle to be legal. South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus said his side should learn how to tackle like the one Farrell put in at the end. "I haven't seen Andre being tackled like that and rocked on his feet in a while," said Erasmus. "On that basis given it was judged legal then we should start tackling like that and execute it like that," added the 46-year-old.

Boks miss Le Roux and de Klerk

The spotlight was on how Damian Willemse, making his full debut, at fullback, and Ivan van Zyl, at scrumhalf, would fare instead of the dashing Willie le Roux and world player of the year nominee Faf de Klerk, both the England-based players ruled out of this match as it falls outside the Test window. Van Zyl will not have given de Klerk much to worry about - he was watching from a hospitality suite - in terms of competition as he was solid without being spectacular linking well enough with flyhalf Handre Pollard. Willemse, 20, showed up well in taking an early high ball well and produced some deft touches with the boot. He proved a livewire in attack too linking up nicely with wing Aphiwe Dyantyi early in the second half. However, the Springboks badly lacked the experience and energy of the absent duo as the game wore on and Willemse especially started to allow errors creep into his game. South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus refused to point the finger at them for being at fault. "It is a learning curve. Of course we missed Willie and Faf as it meant we had two young guns in the decision-making roles but I don't think they performed badly at all," he said.      

England's green backrow stoic in defence

Much was made of the difference in caps between the South African back row and their English opponents -- over 100 to around 10 - but it didn't make a jot of difference to the latter who showed little respect for the opposing trio, with Tom Curry and Mark Wilson especially impressive in the first half. Their defensive work kept the Springboks at bay particularly when Maro Itoje was sin-binned in the 16th minute. "It is defence that wins you matches," said co-captain Dylan Hartley. "We were under the pump and I was especially impressed when we were down to 14 men." Their stoic defence also induced several handling errors. It said it all about the lack of experience available to Jones in the back row that when Curry limped off early in the second half - he left on crutches - he was replaced by debutant Zach Mercer. However, Mercer too impressed with head coach Eddie Jones singling out Wilson and "that Bath guy (Mercer) when he came on." A job well done was summed up when South Africa captain and flanker Siya Kolisi was removed from the fray with 15 minutes remaining.

Read more on:    england  |  springboks  |  rugby


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