Boks v England: 5 talking points

Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)
Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Following a disappointing defeat to Ireland the previous week, the Springboks rebounded to beat England 31-28 at Twickenham this past weekend.

It was a much more clinical display from a fired-up Springboks, who - unlike the previous week in Dublin - took most of their chances to record a well deserved victory.

Sport24 has highlighted FIVE talking points from the weekend's match:

1. Stats don't always paint a clear picture

If one looks at the statistics from this past weekend's game, then you can be forgiven for asking exactly how England lost. The hosts enjoyed 57% possession and 64% territory, made eight clean breaks to three and beat 22 defenders to South Africa’s one. They made 107 carries to South Africa’s 77 and made 388m in possession compared to 217, with the Boks also making twice as many tackles. It was the complete opposite in the previous week's Test in Dublin, where the Springboks enjoyed the lion's share of possession and territory, but still comfortably lost 29-15. It shows that the team which takes its chances best in Test rugby is the one who more than likely ends up winning. The Boks simply made better use of their chances and despite playing second fiddle from a statistics point of view, never once trailed on the scoreboard.

2. Taking kicks at goal

Bok skipper Jean de Villiers appears to have developed a tendency to not kick for goal at crucial stages during Tests. In the defeat to Ireland in Dublin it cost them big time, and almost proved critical again this past weekend. De Villiers will argue that it has paid dividends on a few occasions - most notably Marcell Coetzee's try in Dublin and Schalk Burger's try at Twickenham. However, one can't help but think that this strategy will come back to bite the Boks again at some stage in future. When England hooker Dylan Hartley was sin-binned in the 61st minute for stamping on Duane Vermeulen, De Villiers opted not to kick for goal from the subsequent penalty. Pat Lambie then made the error of kicking the ball over the dead-ball line. The Boks only held a slender 25-20 lead at the time, and with England down to 14 men, an eight point lead would have been the perfect platform to close the game out. Luckily, a few minutes later sanity prevailed when Lambie was instructed to kick a 67th minute penalty which gave the Boks an eight-point buffer. England responded with a penalty of their own a minute later to close the gap back to five points. Then, with the game on a knife's edge in the 74th minute, the Boks won another kickable penalty. Bizarrely, De Villiers again opted to kick for touch. With six minutes left, surely stretching the lead back to eight points would be the logical call to make? The Boks couldn't score from the resultant lineout, but after setting up several phases of attack, Lambie decided to take matters into his own hands by slotting a 76th minute drop goal. The game was now out of England's reach as they had to score twice in a very short space of time to sneak a win. Yes, Burger's try also came after the Boks turned down three points, but the logic behind that call was merited as the Boks were trying to wind down the clock with Victor Matfield in the sin-bin. Unless the opposition must score twice to get back in front, I really feel it's important to take points on offer in Test rugby.

3. Inconsistent officiating

A crucial blunder by the officials played a big part in getting England back into the contest on Saturday. The hosts, trailing 20-6 early in the second half, capitalised when the Boks were without Victor Matfield, who was yellow carded for pulling down a driving maul from a lineout. The hosts scored two tries from driving mauls during that period to level matters. However, the second try came after a mistake from the assistant referee, who wrongly determined Bryan Habana had carried the ball into touch, with replays clearly showing the Bok wing's foot was grounded. What should have been a Springbok lineout up-field, turned into an attacking lineout for the home side within striking range, from which they eventually scored. Questions must be asked why the referee, Steve Walsh, did not consult the television match official, who would easily have been able to determine that it was a Springbok throw-in to the lineout. These refereeing inconsistencies now appear to be common-place on a week-by-week basis - an issue the IRB needs to address ASAP!

4. The Springboks are England's bogey side

The win at Twickenham was South Africa's 11th win in 12 matches against their old foes, with a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth two years ago proving the only 'negative' for the South Africans in recent times. It was not so very long ago that Springbok rugby endured its darkest day when England thrashed the Boks 53-3 in 2002. The Boks have now won on their last five trips to Twickenham and have stretched their win-loss record against the Poms to 23-12.

5. Impressive Springbok halfbacks

The performances of halfbacks, Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie, were pleasing to note on Saturday. Reinach rounded off a spectacular try, kicked well tactically and defended like a Trojan. Apart from his one miss-directed kick over the dead-ball line, Lambie also thrived. It was his clever chip-kick which created Reinach's try and the Sharks pivot also kicked 16 points with the boot, including a late drop goal to put the game out of England's reach. Assuming these two aren't coach Heyneke Meyer's first choice at scrumhalf and flyhalf, the coach can feel pleased by the depth at his disposal.

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