South Africa v England: Red Rose blow another lead, Vermuelen wins the battle up front and other talking points

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South Africa once again came from behind to beat England, clinching the series in the process.

South Africa wrapped up their three-game summer series against England with a game to spare thanks to a 23-12 win in Bloemfontein.

For the second week in succession, Eddie Jones men got off to a flying start but ill-discipline allowed the Springboks back into the game, and once the home side hit the front, there was no catching them.

Tries from Mike Brown and Jonny May helped England into a 12-0 lead with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

They would not score another point, however, as South Africa fought back through a first-half try from man-of-the-match Duane Vermeulen, and a second-half penalty try, along with 13 points from the boot of fly-half Hendre Pollard.

Here are the key talking points from the game.


Last week England plundered three tries in the opening 20 minutes, this week two in the first quarter of an hour, but on both occasions were unable to kick on.

It speaks volumes for the mental fortitude of what is still a relatively inexperienced South Africa side, but any team hoping to challenge at the top end of international rugby cannot be throwing away match-winning leads.

England, now on the back of their fifth straight Test defeat, have forgotten how to win and their decision making and game management has become questionable at best.

A lack of leadership is apparent, is this vindication for Eddie Jones sticking with Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw so long?


It was a lively affair in Bloemfontein

It was a lively affair in Bloemfontein

England fans have been pointing towards their penalty count as a key source of frustration for a number of games now, and this match will be no exception.

Sitting pretty at 12-0 up, they managed to concede six penalties in less than 15 minutes to hand the impetus to the Boks.

Post-match Eddie Jones described his side as being like an old car – fix one problem and another appears. And that was reflected in the penalty count, which came from all over the park, scrum time, collapsing mauls and at the breakdown.

A major concern for the men in white.


Faf de Klerk atoned for some early errors with a measured display

Faf de Klerk atoned for some early errors with a measured display

Given the political overtones surrounding the selection policy of the Springboks, there were many who questioned their competitiveness in this series.

They needn’t have worried.

In half back pairing of Faf de Klerk and Hendre Pollard they have settled on a duo who can control a game superbly. De Klerk is the archetypal sniping scrum half. Fast, with a real zip on his delivery he is always looking to get in behind and on the front foot – something which compliments his mobile pack very well.

Polland has been a measure of consistency with the boot, and has dictated those around him well.

Couple this with a strong pack that is able to get around the park and make real inroads into defences, and some genuine pace and guile in the back division and they have the tools to unlock teams at will.

England have exposed some defensive frailties, but right now, the positives far outweigh the negatives.


Duane Vermeulen was in dominant form

Duane Vermeulen was in dominant form

The battle between Duane Vermeulen and Billy Vunipola was a mouth-watering one pre-match. Indeed, for the first 39 minutes of the encounter both men were prevalent.

Vunipola had carried well and had a part in England’s first try, with a rugged run up the centre of the field allowing England to move the ball wide quickly for Mike Brown to benefit.

Vermeulen was is usual ebullient self. Abrasive and direct, he is the cornerstone of the Bok’s pack – a leader England are crying out for.

Then an all too common sight as Vunipola trudged off a minute before the break, cradling his shoulder. It was a bitter blow to Eddie Jones, who in a heartbeat lost his key rampaging force with ball in hand.

The arrival of Nathan Hughes did little to raise the mood. Impotent and lacking direction, he didn’t come close to filling the void, further allowing Vermeulen to stamp his authority and never allow the England pack to set the platform the backs craved.


Have George Ford and Owen Farrell lost their spark together?

Have George Ford and Owen Farrell lost their spark together?

There is a simple winner here, and they don’t play in white.

De Klerk and Pollard kicked well from a tactical perspective especially in the second period, while Pollard missed just one shot at goal.

Owen Farrell can’t really be faulted for his efforts either, but the tactical kicking of George Ford certainly can.

Time and again he opted for the aerial route at the first sign of a stuttering attack. They often lacked accuracy and did little to worry the South African defence.

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