Two critical moments in Boks’ win

2012-11-26 00:00

FORTUNE certainly favoured the brave at a wet Twickenham on Saturday as the battle-weary Springboks, under the cosh, held their lines and their composure to beat England 16-15.

Two critical moments, first the awarding of the only try of the game to Springbok flank Willem Alberts and then the decision of England captain Chris Robshaw to kick for goal with two minutes remaining, proved decisive in carrying the Springboks to their win.

The irony is that the Springboks were done no favours by the pernickety, over-bearing referee, Welshmen Nigel Owens, on what was already a difficult day for rugby.

Owens was intent on applying the letter of the law and he successfully and controversially blew Springbok tighthead Jannie du Plessis out of the match in the first half.

But even he was nonplussed, and momentarily silenced, by the confusing build-up to Alberts’s bizarre try, which provided the Boks with a 16-6 lead early in the second half.

The Boks were hard on attack when the ball was lost, backwards, by Juandré Kruger and England scrumhalf Ben Youngs fly-hacked the ball downfield. The ball rebounded off the shins of Bok wing JP Pietersen and, pinball fashion, flew towards the England goal-line where backrower Ben Morgan knocked the ball forward for Alberts to gather and score.

Alberts, and most of the Bok forwards, appeared to be metres off-side but the argument was that Morgan had played them on-side. The 10-metre offside law only applies when the ball is kicked and Pietersen, struck by the ball, had certainly not kicked it.

Whether these factors were even considered by the match officials in the chaos of the moment is doubtful but on another day, and with other match officials, the try could have been disallowed with Alberts blown for off-side.

There was as much confusion over Robshaw’s decision to kick for goal with two minutes remaining. The loud booing from the 80 000-crowd resulted in the England captain having a change of heart but the decision had been made, the penalty was goaled by Owen Farrell (16-15) and the Boks were left with less than a minute to negotiate to seal the win.

“Unfortunately, it was probably the wrong call,” Robshaw said later.

His coach Stuart Lancaster refused to criticise his captain but praised the Boks for their resolute defence. “Credit to South Africa, to come here and get the result at the end of a long season. But we could’ve and should’ve won.”

Heyneke Meyer, reflecting on his first season as Bok coach, said it gone as well as he could have expected with a record of played 12, won eight, lost three and drawn one.

The Springbok defence, and their superb lineout, were the obvious strengths of the side. Conditions encouraged the kicking game but there was just the suggestion on Saturday that Meyer was starting to allow the players, and flyhalf Pat Lambie, to express themselves on attack.

“The one thing we’ve added to our play is the defence and grinding out wins. We had an inexperienced side and started the year number four in the world and we will end number two.

“I would have taken that every day in my first year. I always knew it would be a tough year for a new coaching staff with a young and inexperienced squad.”

The Boks’ heroes were again among the forwards with Duane Vermeulen having his strongest game on tour with fellow-backrowers Willem Alberts and Francois Louw not far behind him.

Young lock Eben Etzebeth continues to surprise friend and foe and, while the Boks went somewhere to solving their problems in the scrum in the second half by replacing tighthead Du Plessis with young Pat Cilliers, the England lineout was woeful throughout.

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