England's captain Chris Robshaw is tackled by South
Africa's Pat Lambie during their international rugby union
match at Twickenham Stadium in London. Photo by Reuters.
South Africa extended their unbeaten run against England
to 11 matches at Twickenham on Saturday as the Springboks held
off the hosts 16-15 in their final rugby test of the year.
In torrential rain and heavy underfoot conditions, ideally
suited to the visitors' powerful forwards, Pat Lambie and
Toby Flood traded penalties in the opening half as South
Africa took a slim advantage.
A fortuitous try soon after the restart for powerhouse
flanker Willem Alberts gave the Springboks the momentum and
while England looked threatening at times, South Africa just
kept them at bay.
"It could've gone either way.... we were very fortunate...
the 50-50s went for us," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer told
"I said to Jean (de Villiers) that six months ago this team
would have lost this game so after a long season I'll take
one point on the day."
England had talked all week about making an impression from
the kick off and they rewarded coach Stuart Lancaster
immediately, showing much more physical intent than a week
ago when they lost to Australia.
A charge down from the first ruck of the game inside South
Africa's 22 was followed by a clever and incisive run from
winger Mike Brown and the pressure eventually told on the
Springboks as Flood landed his second penalty attempt.
While England made most of the early play, South Africa
rolled up their sleeves and drew level primarily thanks to
lock Eben Etzebeth's spoiling tactics at the line out.
Flood and his South Africa opposite number Lambie were at it
again in margins of three before the opening quarter was
complete but it was England who looked the more threatening.
Two missed penalties from Flood cost them what would have
been a deserved halftime advantage.
A desire to front up to the Springboks' monster pack created
opportunities for England in the first 40 minutes, none
better than to fullback Alex Goode who ran off the shoulder
of scrumhalf Ben Youngs, slicing through the ruck and deep
inside the visitors' 22.
Whatever South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said to his players
at halftime spurred them into life.
A risky decision to turn down a very kickable penalty a
minute after the restart in favour of a lineout proved to be
inspired for captain Jean de Villiers.
In propelling himself forward, lock Juandre Kruger left the
ball behind and England's attempts to boot it clear failed.
Alberts was on hand to scoop up a Tom Wood knock-on from the
rebound and score.
A melee inside England's 22 sparked by Etzebeth followed the
try but all was forgotten when centre Manu Tuilagi thwarted a
threatening South African attack with an intercept.
He charged forward but again England's inability to turn
possession and territory into points was telling as Chris
Ashton's pass to Brown was a poor one and the opportunity
Lancaster's men attacked with passion and verve in the final
quarter and while they closed to within striking distance,
debate is sure to rage over England captain Chris Robshaw's
decision to kick at goal with less than two minutes remaining
and his team trailing by four points.
While the kick was successful, it left England with little
time to return to South Africa's half and the Springboks shut
down the game to close a long season in the best possible
"Credit to South Africa, after a long season... to come here
and get the result, credit to Heyneke Meyer and his team,"
England head coach Stuart Lancaster told reporters.
"But we could've and should've won."
The Springboks now head home after also beating Ireland and
Scotland on their northern hemisphere tour while England host
world champions New Zealand in seven days' time.