5 talking points: England v Springboks

Damian de Allende takes on Owen Farrell (Gallo Images)
Damian de Allende takes on Owen Farrell (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ agonising 12-11 defeat to England at Twickenham:

1. Aussie ref robs Boks!

No doubt the biggest talking point of the Test came right at the death when Australian referee Angus Gardner ruled that Owen Farrell’s hit on Andre Esterhuizen was legitimate.

With England ahead by one point and South Africa hot on attack, Farrell executed what looked like a shoulder charge on the burly Sharks midfielder.

Gardner referred the decision upstairs to Irish television match official Olly Holmes, but after a brief consultation, Gardner took the decision upon himself and said it was a fair tackle.

To me it was clear that Farrell had not used his arms.

To make matters worse for Gardner, he also missed a clear offside and subsequent high tackle by England wing Jonny May on Bok centre Jesse Kriel (see in the tweet below).

2. Springbok lineout woes

South African hooker Malcolm Marx had a torrid afternoon with his lineout throwing.

The Boks lost four vital lineouts, with three of those coming off overthrows from Marx.

I noted English commentator Stuart Barnes criticise Bok coach Rassie Erasmus for not bringing on Bongi Mbonambi earlier.

However, one can’t help but wonder whether Erasmus had reservations about Mbonambi. who also had a shocker with his lineout throwing in the previous week’s Currie Cup final between Western Province and the Sharks.

Barnes clearly did not watch the Currie Cup final...

3. Springbok finishing leaves much to be desired…

The Springboks completely dominated the first half and the game should have been over as a contest at the interval.

The Boks enjoyed 78% territory and 67% possession in the first stanza yet only led by 8-6 at half-time.

South Africa's finishing was dismal and the number of handling errors is alarming for international standard.

By the 49th minute, the South Africans had already knocked on 10 times and you just can’t win games at this level if you can’t catch and pass properly.

The Boks were camped on the England line when the home side's lock Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical foul.

Unfortunately, from a South African perspective, they couldn’t cash in on their numerical advantage and actually lost the period Itoje was off 3-0.

4. A pass mark for the two Damians

Namesakes Damian Willemse and Damian de Allende can feel pleased by their efforts in a losing cause.

Willemse performed adequately in his first Test start at fullback. Apart from one overcooked kick straight into touch, he appeared calm and composed.

He defended well and his positional play was not too shabby, while he showed glimpses of his attacking prowess in one appealing counter-attack which almost yielded a try.

De Allende caused England all sorts of headaches in midfield with his barnstorming runs. He constantly got the Boks over the advantage line and created several platforms for the visitors to attack from.

A criticism of his play is that he lost a couple of balls in contact and seemingly had no intention of offloading...

5. Etzebeth hammer blow for Boks

The Boks received a big blow early in the second half when lock enforcer Eben Etzebeth limped off.

It was perhaps no coincidence that the Boks lost their physical dominance over England once he left the field in the 41st minute.

It was later confirmed that Etzebeth had suffered an ankle injury, with coach Rassie Erasmus describing the injury afterwards as looking “pretty bad”.

It looks like Etzebeth will be out for the remainder of the tour. Etzebeth missed most of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury and he will feel Twickenham has become his bogey ground, having also been injured in an earlier clash there.

He is vital for the Bok cause heading into next year’s Rugby World Cup and they cannot afford to have him sidelined for most parts of next year’s Super Rugby campaign...

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