TWICKENHAM: World champions South Africa ended 2022 on a high with a convincing 27-13 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday. The Springboks outscored England two tries to one, wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and veteran lock Eben Etzebeth both crossing, with fly-half Damian Willemse landing two drop-goals. South Africa held out despite playing the last 20 minutes a man down after Thomas du Toit was sent off for a high tackle on Luke Cowan-Dickie. It was a deserved win with the Springboks, just as they had done in overwhelming England 32-12 in the 2019 World Cup final, dominant at the scrum and more creative in attack.
England, who had come from 19 points down late on to snatch a stunning 25-25 with New Zealand last week, then cut South Africa’s lead to 14 points nine minutes from time when replacement back Henry Slade went over for a converted try. But the Springboks held firm for their second victory in four Autumn Nations Series matches as they ended the calendar year with nine wins from 14 Tests ahead of their 2023 global title defense in France.
“It is a big relief for us,” South Africa captain Siya Kolisi told Amazon Prime as he paid tribute to a “tough” England. “It is not that much of a difference but we are just seeing opportunities which we didn’t in the past.” By contrast, the result meant England had won just one of their November matches to finish the year with just five victories from 12 Tests-their worst annual return since 2008. “We are disappointed we didn’t play how we wanted to,” said England coach Eddie Jones. “It took until the game had gone to start playing how we wanted to.”
‘Didn’t land a shot’
But the veteran Australian coach, also in charge of his native Wallabies’ defeat by England in the 2003 World Cup final, insisted there was time for his current side to “rise to the occasion” in France. “We didn’t land a shot like we wanted to today (Saturday),” he added. “You have to win contests. We didn’t win the air or the set-piece so it’s hard to get in the game.” South Africa’s victory was all the more impressive as they were missing several players for a Test taking place outside World Rugby’s international window following their 63-21 thrashing of Italy last week. The Springboks had suffered defeats by Ireland and France during the Autumn campaign-with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus receiving a two-game matchday ban following his social media posts regarding refereeing decisions after those losses.
South Africa’s Faf de Klerk was off target with an early penalty while, far more surprisingly, England captain Owen Farrell missed two of his first three efforts after succeeding with all 15 of his previous goal-kicks this month. South Africa’s territorial dominance was rewarded when Willemse landed a 30-metre drop-goal just after the half-hour mark and barely 60 seconds later the Springboks had a try.
England fly-half Marcus Smith’s clearing kick was safely gathered in his own 22 by Willemse, who evaded the cover before finding full-back Willie le Roux on his inside. Le Roux released Arendse, sprinting up on his outside, the wing speeding past Smith for a seventh try in seven Tests. De Klerk missed the conversion but South Africa were 14-3 ahead at the interval when the scrum-half landed a penalty. Willemse caught England cold with a second drop-goal a minute into the second half, again from 30 meters.
Farrell landed a penalty only for a fresh infringement to see England’s Tom Curry sin-binned minutes later. South Africa won possession from the close-range line-out and lock Etzebeth was driven over for a try between the posts in the 49th minute that De Klerk converted to put the Springboks 24-6 ahead. The diminutive De Klerk punished England’s indiscipline again with a superb penalty from just inside the half-way line. Du Toit then saw red and Slade scored a well-worked try converted by Farrell but it was all too late for England. – AFP