The Springboks are back on the winning trail as coach Rassie Erasmus achieved his first success as national coach.
But they had to endure a few anxious moments in beating England 42-39 at a packed Ellis Park on Saturday evening.
However, the close scoreline can’t mask a magnificent comeback from the hosts, who overturned a 3-24 deficit after just 17 minutes.
Spurred on by a massive crowd of 55 211, the Boks did superbly to score 26 unanswered points to essentially set up the platform for the victory by the end of the first half.
It was a good day for the Bok debutants.
Both wingers were among the try-scorers, while lock RG Snyman ignited South Africa’s pack in partnership with the robustness and experience of No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
England’s clinical attacking when they had the ball was impressive and they certainly were worthy opponents.
Who was the star in this game?
It would have been easy to give the award to right wing S’bu Nkosi, who scored twice on debut, and showed some outstanding touches but the experience of fullback Willie le Roux, who starred in his 42nd Test match, was crucial in leading the Boks’ attack.
Key moments and themes
- The Springboks’ defensive organisation was absolutely woeful in the first 20 minutes, a period in which they conceded three tries. There was no structure and England easily exploited space, especially out wide. It’s an aspect that urgently requires attention.
- England clearly seemed intent on countering Johannesburg’s altitude by trying to score as many points as possible as early as possible. It seemed to work a treat before they ran out of gas in the second quarter and succumbed to the Boks’ relentless attacking approach.
- They might make some frustrating mistakes but Springbok rugby needs X-factor men like Le Roux and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who play on instinct and clearly added immense value. However, it was the magic of Nkosi that sparked the Boks to life. He showed power and skill for his two tries.
- South Africa continued to apply immense pressure in the second half but they will need to ensure that they stop losing concentration at vital moments. They lacked composure in conceding a try to England lock Maro Itoje despite the visitors being one man down due to prop Mako Vunipola’s yellow. It was the same with Johnny May’s try with two minutes left as the Boks simply didn’t cope defensively in broken play.
- But the feelgood factor is back for the Boks for now and new captain Siya Kolisi certainly rallied his troops, even if his own enthusiasm led to two offside penalties and Itoje’s score.
Springboks – Tries: S’bu Nkosi (2), Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4). Penalties: Pollard (2).
England – Tries: Mike Brown, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Johnny May. Conversions: Farrell (4). Penalties: Daly, Farrell.