There should be no recriminations over England’s defeat and performance on Saturday — only learnings and a heartfelt acknowledgement of South Africa’s superiority on the day. The Boks were quite superb.
This has been an excellent England campaign and they truly reached new heights against New Zealand last week but sport is a great leveller. At the very elite level if you get one aspect of your game wrong for a period of time you are gone. There is no way back, and that’s what happened on Saturday.
England were completely out-scrummaged throughout the first half and for periods of the second half. Not only were they marched back but they conceded five scrum penalties. You simply can’t win a game of Test rugby if your set piece is being dominated to such an extent, especially as the lineout was also creaking badly.
There should be no recriminations over England’s defeat and performance on Saturday
South Africa were quite superb in Yokohama and far superior to England on the day
England got the basics wrong and the frustration is that the basics have been England’s strong point this season. And of course that has a knock on effect. You start throwing loose, under pressure, passes or you spill the ball at restarts just when you need to calm everything down and be ruthlessly efficient.
Did England’s arriving late affect them and contribute to their nervy start? No I was stood down there on the touchline and their warm-up was excellent, calm and in control. I was as surprised as anybody that England were so error strewn in the first half. The nerves suddenly kicked in.
The Kyle Sinckler injury? Yes that was a blow because he’s been great for England and to see a key man knocked out cold so early and be helped off is a bit unsettling. What it also meant is that Dan Cole, who has been conditioned to come on for half an hour toward the latter end of his career, was suddenly looking at a 77-minute shift. When was the last time he was basically required to go the full distance?
It wasn’t ideal but don’t forget that the Boks had two key forwards helped off in the first half as well. That’s Test rugby.
Could England have selected differently bearing in mind that the Boks are always likely to target the scrum. That, I believe, would be a case of hindsight talking. Remember what an incredible job that England pack did on New Zealand. I don’t recall any critics raising any objections when the England team was announced.
England were completely out-scrummaged during the first half and for periods of the second
Selection is always about balance. George Kruis might be more of a presence at scrum-time than Courtney Lawes, ditto Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola, but the likes of Lawes and Vunipola can give you so much in those opening exchanges when you are looking to set the tempo of the game. This time it didn’t work, on most occasions it will.
The bigger issue which England will have to sit down and consider when the dust is settled is the strength and experience of the forwards on the bench. South Africa’s ‘bomb squad’ - the six forwards they have used off the bench all tournament — are to a man magnificent players and essentially Test starters. Some people would have Marx and Mostert in their current world XV!
The South African pack loses nothing whatseover when they come