Following an absorbing 42-39 win for South Africa over England in their June clash, here are five takeaways from the match at Ellis Park.
The dynamic duo: Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux were the stars of the show for South Africa as the Sale and Wasps men had England in all kinds of bother in Johannesburg. De Klerk offers so much pace from the base and sucks in defenders, which in turn creates space for those outside him. One of those players was full-back Le Roux, who relished his return to the Boks setup, causing England so many problems wide out. What will frustrate England fans is that these two compete week in week out in the Premiership so where was the plan to contain them?
Defences optional: 56 points were leaked in the first-half and 25 in the second as both sides showed clear weaknesses in both one on one tackles and their wide defence. For England this is especially concerning seeing as they conceded 63 points against the Barbarians on May 27, with this another questionable day at the office. The outside defence in particular in the opening period was non-existent as Le Roux, man-of-the-match De Klerk, Daly and Brown enjoyed space aplenty. England though, as mentioned, need to take a long hard look at this area.
England’s preparations must be questioned: To prepare for a fixture on the highveld with a training base at sea level did raise an eyebrow ahead of this match. No doubt questions will be asked in the fallout to this loss as England looked out on their feet for a long spell of the game, with South Africa picking them off at will. Next week they will know what is coming in Bloemfontein, again a venue at altitude.
Bok pack flex their muscles: Their starting pack and also the replacements were excellent at both scrum time and the line-out, winning the crucial battle up front against their opponents. RG Snyman in particular stood out with solid carries in the loose while substitute Steven Kitshoff added plenty in the set-piece and around the field, winning a vital penalty on 75 minutes to seal victory. A real bragging point for the Springboks with the return of Duane Vermeulen also a major factor in the contest. He appears ready to stamp his mark on this side.
Chris Robshaw’s place should come under serious threat: For the second game in succession the England flanker looked all at sea in an open, expansive contest. You can never doubt his work ethic or qualities in the slower paced Six Nations and he was one of their better players in that competition this year, but Robshaw’s lack of power and athleticism was exposed by the Barbarians and South Africa. Eddie Jones’ men were on the back foot after an excellent first 20 minutes but Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola were much stronger in contact than their back-row team-mate and at least stopped the Springboks on the gain line a few times. No doubt it will be Curry who is taken out of the XV, however.