Boks save best til last

The Lions were left in no doubt as the seriousness of the task ahead in South Africa next summer as the Springboks brought their UK tour to an end with a stunning victory over England at Twickenham. [more]

Boks save best til last

The Lions were left in no doubt as the seriousness of the task ahead in South Africa next summer as the Springboks brought their UK tour to an end with a stunning victory over England at Twickenham.

The Boks made it three wins from three after previous victories over Wales and Scotland but this was by far their most convincing performance on tour.

The game was effectively won by half-time as Peter de Villiers saw his side race into a 20-6 interval lead – a gap which only got bigger after the break.

Tries from Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Adrian Jacobs, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana, along with a further 15 points from Pienaar’s boot and two from Frans Steyn, gave the Boks a stunning 42-6 win against the side they beat far less comfortably in last year’s World Cup Final. 

The five-tries-to-nil-victory makes the Lions’ 2009 task look increasingly challenging as the Boks defended heroically and took almost every chance afforded to them. They were commanding in the tight and clinical when the ball went lose and the Lions will have to deal with those strengths with far more resolve than England did on Saturday afternoon.

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With Danny Cipriani and Pienaar trading early penalties, Cipriani had an opportunity to move his side 6-3 in front after Jannie du Plessis had been penalised at a scrum just inside the South African half, but the Wasps No10 left his 50-metre effort short of the crossbar.

A sharp 20-metre break from Paul Sackey then created England’s first try-scoring chance of the match as the home side put the world champions on the back foot. Two successive Springbok errors almost cost them dear as Pierre Spies failed to gather Cipriani’s kick ahead and then Conrad Jantjes saw Tom Rees charge down his attempted clearance. Habana eventually rescued the situation by gathering the loose ball and carrying it over his own line but Twickenham sensed a score from the resulting five-metre scrum.

Martin Johnson’s men kept possession for 10 phases but the Boks never looked like conceding. Instead, South Africa forced an England error, with JP Pietersen beating Delon Armitage to a lengthy hack up field. Pietersen’s hard work turned the tables and the Boks themselves came closest to registering the game’s opening try. Only a timely intervention from Sackey, who stepped in from his position on the right wing, prevented Habana from gladly accepting a 40-metre run in.

It was a similar scenario just a minute-and-a-half later, as the Boks again made England look vulnerable. This time, it was skipper Steve Borthwick who saved his team after a speculative overhead pass from Jacobs had almost resulted in a try for scrum-half Ricky Januarie.

South Africa did cross the England line from the very next play, however, as Rossouw powered through three tackles to claim his seventh international try. Pienaar drew in three defenders himself before the Springbok openside brushed off Cipriani, Ricki Flutey and Jamie Noon.

Pienaar’s straightforward conversion from five metres to the left of the posts gave the Boks a 10-3 advantage with a quarter of an hour played and the situation got even worse for England three minutes later.

Pienaar was again in the thick of the action as he charged down Cipriani’s kick on the England 10-metre line after the 20-year-old had taken far too long to put boot to ball. Pienaar, making just his third start at outside-half for his country, had no problem picking up the bouncing ball and running in unopposed for his side’s second try. By adding the extras from directly underneath the posts, Pienaar gave his side a 14-point advantage with three quarters of the game still to play.

Both fly-halves kicked a further penalty before the half drew to a close, but it was the Boks who had to work the hardest to prevent their line from being breached. Giant lock Bakkies Botha dismissed pre-match talk of Springbok tiredness as he somehow got his body in the way of Armitage as the London Irish full back looked set to cross in the right-hand corner. Having been beaten by Danny Care earlier in a move which saw quick hands from Wasps trio Cipriani, Rees and James Haskell, Botha chased across the field to knock Armitage out of his stride and allow Pietersen to complete the tackle and quell the danger.

Despite losing the otherwise impressive prop Beast Mtawarira to the sin bin after 29 minutes, South Africa finished the half leading by two complete scores.

Johnson’s half-time team talk clearly had some impact on his squad as England began the second 40 with a period of sustained pressure. However, the Bok defence held firm for phase after phase of England possession. On one occasion, John Smit and his team held out for 14 phases before finally forcing a turnover.

As they had done in the first-half, South Africa weathered the storm before showing England how to make the most of their opportunities. Victor Matfield’s assured lineout take and Jean de Villiers’ dummy run created a superbly-taken score with 50 minutes on the clock. Pienaar fed Pietersen midway inside the England half, with Pietersen then producing a brilliant one-handed offload to the onrushing Jacobs. England’s defence had no answer to Jacob’s intelligent line of running and the Boks were suddenly 19 points in front.

Pienaar’s conversion stretched the gap to 21, before his third penalty took the Boks to the 30-point mark with just over an hour played.

A cynical block from Jantjes on his opposite man Armitage led to the Springboks receiving their second yellow card but it made no difference to the outcome of the match. England continued to dominate possession but the Boks relentlessly guarded the tryline as if the World Cup final was taking place here and now and not 13 months ago in Paris.

With South African supporters already celebrating and England fans heading home, late scores from Fourie and Habana completed the rout to give the Boks a glorious send off to an arduous year and add even more spice to next summer’s series with the Lions.

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