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Springboks pull away from brave England

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The Springboks, after trailing at half-time, powered past an English side that had put up a brave fight, winning 55-22 in Pretoria on Saturday.

The English managed only three points in the second half, whilst the Springboks’ physicality and pace were to prove too much, as they ran in six tries in the second half.

But that first half was no waltz for the Springboks as they bumbled about, doing their best to help England avoid embarrassment and ended trailing 19-17 at the break.

In Bloemfontein the Springboks had had a good first half and a great finish. They scored seven tries. In Pretoria they had a good second half and some great finishing. They scored eight tries.

In both matches England scored just one try. That their scoreboard looked better was part of the Springbok bungle. Jonny Wilkinson gave England their first nine points. Then Bryan Habana was penalised and sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on – and that made 12 points. Add to that the passing as the Springboks spread across the field in a chain and threw the ball towards one another. Pierre Spies shuffled sideward and flipped the ball outwards – and Dan Scarbrough intercepted and raced off over the half-way line to the Springbok posts. That was the try that gave England the lead at the break.

The Springboks were noticeably sharper in the second half when Ruan Pienaar came into scrumhalf. He got into position more quickly and his passing was much quicker and more accurately. Mind you, by then the game was up for England.

South Africa scored more points than England and yet there was a sense in which England were the victors. They showed how pride and determination can still turn matches. They were not in the Springboks’ class as players but they swarmed about, tackling with frenzy competing at the breakdown with intent. Their intent defence is what gave them a winning chance in the first half, but only in the first half. And some of their players proved their great worth, especially loose forwards Ben Skirving and Nick Easter. If the Springboks had scored more points than they did in the firts half justice would not have been done to the bravery of the England effort.

The first kick-off of the match looked ominous for England. Easter knocked it on and Roy Winters played it to concede a penalty. Percy Montgomery’s kick was straight enough but short. In fact if South African kicking had been 100% as it was in Bloemfontein they would have scored more points than they did in Bloemfontein.
Montgomery’s next kick, when Matt Stevens was penalised for handling in a ruck, was successful and South Africa led 30-0 after four minutes.

But the very first scrum collapsed and CJ van der Linde was penalised, one of two penalties against South Africa at the scrum. Wilkinson goaled. 3-3 after 9 minutes. England could have taken the lead but Wilkinson missed a chance when Akona Ndungane was penalised for holding on at a tackle.

The Springboks conceded two penalties and a free kick at scrums and actually lost a scrum against the head. They also lost two line-outs in the first half. That was not the way to establish forward dominance.

South Africa did not look like breaking the English defence till they got a freakish try. The ball from a tackle/ruck was slow and Januarie lobbed it down towards the England line with Montgomery in hot pursuit. The perverse ball bounced – backwards over the head of Montgomery and into the arms of Januarie who scored. 10-3.

Van der Linde was penalised at a tackle. 10-6.

Ndungane set up the position for the first try of the match. He raced away on an overlap, chipped and chased. Mike Brown knocked on, which gave the Springboks a five-metre scrum. They shoved England back. Spies drove and then Burger swooped in low to score. Montgomery converted from the right corner.

Overconfidence has always been the besetting sin of South Afri

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