Following last week's defeat to Scotland, the embattled Springboks went from zero to hero after beating England 21-11 at Twickenham.
Following a demoralising defeat to Scotland, the embattled Springboks went from zero to hero in the space of a week after beating England 21-11 at Twickenham on Saturday.
South Africa dusted themselves off from a miserable afternoon at Murrayfield to silence their critics with a powerful performance that made up for last week's effort ten-fold.
It was an incredible return of serve from the world champions who may have had their Grand Slam dreams dashed, but at least restored some pride with one game left to play on tour against the Barbarians at the same venue next weekend.
Once again, the Boks' proved that they are a different kettle of fish with their backs up against the wall as England were left to find out the hard way – enduring a seventh consecutive defeat to the men in green and gold.
The visiting pack was immense, dominating the collisions and set-pieces – their line-out was simply outstanding – however the backline were less impressive, making too many handling errors and lacking penetration on attack.
But it didn't matter as England were a shadow of the team that smashed the Wallabies two weeks ago. Out-thought and out-fought. That was the bottom line for England in an encounter which was not so much a rugby match as an arm-wrestle.
Gone were the pretty patterns woven by England in recent weeks. Instead they found themselves scrapping for possession. Desperately shoring up their defence. Fighting for their lives against the toughest, meanest team in rugby. They came up short.
The sides were level at half-time but after losing the influential Tom Croft and Toby Flood shortly before the break, England conceded a soft penalty straight after and it was all South Africa thereafter as the hosts wilted under pressure.
Replacement Willem Alberts was sent over in the right-hand corner before debutant winger Lwazi Mvovo ghosted through a stationary England backline five minutes later to effectively seal matters.
An intercept try from full-back Ben Foden two minutes from the end represented scant consolation for Martin Johnson's men, who battled hard but ultimately failed to deal with the might of the Springboks pack.
Toby Flood got the ball rolling with a straight-forward penalty in the fifth minute after a scintillating 30m run from Tom Croft that took play into kicking range for his fly-half, who didn't disappoint. It was just reward for an all-out England counter-attack instigated by Nick Easter.
The physicality of the match nearly claimed its first victim in the form of Chris Ashton following a mistimed tackle on Bok skipper Victor Matfield that saw the England winger come off second best. Dazed, Ashton saw more than stars flying over his head as Morne Steyn leveled the scores with a well-struck penalty in the tenth minute.
The big hits kept coming in, and this time it was the impressive-looking Croft who felt the punishing effects of a brutal Test that would see the flanker forced off the pitch clutching his forearm. It was a cruel blow for England, but the hosts pressed on and took the lead once more thanks to another three points from Flood.
At this point it seemed whatever England did, South Africa could do better as the world champions clicked into a higher gear and nearly accelerated over the line only for Matfield to have the ball knocked from his grasp with the tryline begging.
The missed opportunities wouldn't end there for the Boks, however, after the two Steyns – Morne and Francois – watched in angst as their respective penalty efforts hit the posts and denied South Africa six points.
Flood, injured in the build-up to the Matfield effort, failed to make the interval and was replaced by Charlie Hodgson, while opposite number Steyn levelled matters four minutes before the end of the half after England spoiled a ruck on their own line.
Three minutes after the break and South Africa were ahead for the first time – veteran Mike Tindall spotted in an offside position.
England responded well though, driving towards the line through Dylan Hartley and Easter, and although they camped on the try-line for several minutes looking for an opening, Easter was hit by three defenders and the ball fell clear as the Springboks survived.
South Africa began to ring the changes with prop CJ Van Der Linde and flanker Alberts sent on – and both made an immediate impact.
The England scrum struggled as the Springboks wheeled one and then hooked a ball against the head. Morne Steyn kicked ahead and wing Mark Cueto conceded the line-out.
South Africa drove through phase after phase before moving the ball wide and number eight Pierre Spies' wonderful, delayed pass sent Alberts over in the corner. Morne Steyn was off-target with the conversion, but it had become a war of attrition and in such circumstances there was only likely to be one outcome.
Hodgson tried a cross-kick which Mvovo gathered and he then drew the penalty as Ashton and Shontayne Hape came off their feet and Morne Steyn teed up the attacking line-out.
Both Steyns dropped back into position for a drop goal but the Springboks instead worked the ball wide for Mvovo, who brushed past Ashton to score on 70 minutes.
England never really looked like creating an opening were before they gifted a late try after Foden picked off Van Der Linde's offload and sprinted 90 metres to score. Tindall tried the quick drop-goal conversion and hit the post, summing up their afternoon.
Man of the match: While Bismarck du Plessis was named the official man of the match, it could have gone to any of the Bok heavies. Which is why we're going for a collective effort! Special mention for England lock Courtney Lawes – he was everywhere!
Moment of the match: Tough to choose between new Bok recruits Willem Alberts and Lwazi Mvovo. But we'll go for Mvovo's touchdown, as the Bok speedster sealed the win with his first Test try.
Villain of the match: None spring to mind, but we have a funny feeling you'll prove us wrong – answers on a postcard please!
Pens: Flood 2
For South Africa:
Tries: Alberts, Mvovo
Cons: M Steyn
Pens: M Steyn 3
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 David Wilson, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Hendre Fourie, 20 Danny Care, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Matt Banahan.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jean De Villiers, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (capt), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.