Blunders almost undo Boks

2012-06-18 00:00

THE Springboks rapidly descended from the sublime to the ridiculous at Ellis Park and can thank wing JP Pietersen for saving their bacon in Saturday night’s second Test against England.

The Boks came out of their blocks like a sprinter, producing snatches of compelling rugby and totally dominating the first half against England.

The lead was 22-3 after 18 minutes and 28-10 six minutes into the second half, but they then lost their way against the spirited English and were finally relieved to escape with a 36-27 win to take the three-Test series 2-0. The tour ends with the third Test in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The All Blacks and Wallabies gained weekend victories, and won their series, with last-gasp injury time kicks against Ireland and Wales, while the southern hemisphere’s clean sweep over teams from the north was confirmed by home team Argentina’s try in the closing minute for a 23-20 win over France.

The Springboks were, at the final whistle, the most comfortable of all the southern hemisphere winners, yet they also had to battle through testing times.

Indeed, entering the final quarter, it seemed all their excellent rugby in the first half would be undone by the confusion, the injuries and replacements, the many errors, the missed kicks of Morné Steyn and the high tempo of England’s improving rugby.

The Boks had been given a dream start to the Test when after two minutes the ball rolled in and out the tunnel at an England defensive scrum and flank Willem Alberts, untouched and almost embarrassed at his good fortune, doddled the five metres to the line. The burly Bok forwards kept charging through English ranks and five minutes later hooker Bismarck du Plessis crashed over.

Scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, sharper, quicker and happier than the week before in Durban, enjoyed the flowing, clean, quick possession from the breakdown and kept the Boks going forward and then nipped in for a try of his own after 18 minutes (22-3).

A rare England attack and a quick penalty surprised the Boks and Toby Flood scored, but a Morné Steyn drop provided the Boks with a 15-point cushion at the break (25-10).

A Steyn penalty stretched the lead early in the second half (28-10) before South Africa, hit by injuries, substitutions and a rash of errors opened the door for England.

Two tries by scrumhalf Ben Youngs and a couple of penalties by Flood and England were back in the game (31-27) entering the final quarter.

England, making a mess of the revamped Bok scrum and with their confidence high, were within touching distance when Bok wing Pietersen counter-attacked from his own half, beat half-a-dozen defenders to set up a ruck in the England quarter and then, fittingly, scored the try when the ball was moved to his right wing.

The struggling Steyn, who missed four kicks on the day, was again wide with the conversion, but the Boks were two scores (36-27) ahead with six minutes remaining and the series had been won.

There was much to admire in the Boks’ rugby in the first half when they were clinical, ruthless and highly effective as their powerful forwards and backs combined on attack.

But their untidy moments, the soft tries they conceded and the ease with which England hit back will — or should — keep their head out of the clouds.

Scorers :

South Africa 36 : Tries: Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, JP Pietersen. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2), Penalties: Morné Steyn (3). Drop-goal: Morné Steyn.

England 27: Tries: Toby Flood, Ben Youngs (2), Conversions: Toby Flood (3). Penalties: Toby Flood (2).

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