Seldom, if ever, have 50,000 people made so little noise. They were as dumbfounded as were the players of the new South Africa by the systematic dismantling of the national side. The first quarter was one of the most bewildering and bedazzling spells in the history of international rugby.
Incredibly, after only 15 minutes, England had established an unassailable lead of 20 points, all but five of them scored by Rob Andrew, whose every touch carried the stamp of confidence and positive thought. 'This was one of the most satisfying international matches I have played,' Andrew said. 'To beat a southern hemisphere country at Twickenham is one thing but to win over here is a very different matter. I had put in a lot of work on my kicking this week and for once it came good on the day.'
His 27 points in the match created a new English individual scoring record, beating by three points the previous record held by Jon Webb. Andrew kicked five penalties, two conversions and a drop goal and scored a try, cleverly switching play in midfield by hoisting a high kick to the Springboks line and plucking it out of the air to touch down under the posts.
Like so many of England's most menacing manoeuvres, Ben Clarke's try, seven minutes earlier, had come from a lineout after Brian Moore had nailed the scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen, Tony Underwood had taken Andrew's inside pass and Clarke had been swept over in the midst of his triumphant forwards.
A flying start by the opposition was the last thing the Springboks wanted. Untried as a unit and striving to find some semblance of rhythm, they were rocked backwards time and again by a series of piercing forward thrusts involving Clarke, Victor Ubogu and Tim Rodber, who, throughout the game, produced an irresistible alliance of speed and belligerence. 'We took the criticism of the last couple of weeks very personally,' Rodber said, 'and felt that this was a do-or-die effort.'
Rodber was a towering inferno at the tail of England's lineout along with Clarke, while Martin Bayfield and Nigel Redman held sway further forward. It was a nightmare for John Allan, the Springboks hooker, whose every throw at one stage was ending up in enemy hands.
Nor was the Springboks scrummage any more productive, and although they worked feverishly after the initial onslaught, from the oppressive grasp of the tourists' forwards, they were confronted at all points by the English bulldog, growling, snapping and cutting off the would-be intruder at the knees. 'They started well, got into the lead then sat on it and didn't play much more rugby,' Francois Pienaar, the South Africa captain, said. 'But no excuses, we just couldn't find a gap after those first 20 minutes. I take my hat off to the England forwards. They always had us on the back foot.'
The quality of England's defence allowed them to withstand the South African's spirited response in the second half, though Andre Joubert kicked three penalties for a variety of offences to add to the two he converted in the first half.
If there is a warning for next week's second Test it was in the speed and penetration of the Springboks' attacks during this spell which had the English defence at full stretch and looking at times distinctly vulnerable.
There is certain to be criticism of the Springboks' selection for this game and at no time were they able to match the performances of their provincial sides. 'It was an auspicious occasion,' Pienaar said, 'and the atmosphere might have affected some of our players. But it will be very tough to turn it round in a week.'
But rather than burying South Africa let us salute England. They offered positive proof that skill and competitiveness are not incompatible and, despite the fact that the South Africans were manifestly superior in the more spectacular arts of running and support play, for once England gaily abandoned the more soporific aspects of their recent performances. Their recycling of the ball in the loose and speed to the breakdown were a joy to behold, and it made for compelling entertainment.
The tourists could not afford any passengers yesterday and there was no Englishman who did not pull his weight. Paul Hull has been the most exciting revelation of this tour, a model of composure and a confidence-inspiring last line of defence; the Underwoods, at last, were alive to every situation both in attack and defence; the midfield, tough as teak, were also reliable servants.
But what will be concentrating the minds of the Springboks selectors before next Saturday will be the failure of their forwards. They had neither the height in the lineout nor the power in the mauls and scrums to live with England yesterday and the task of repairing the damage in such a short space of time would seem to be an impossible one.
'The result doesn't diminish the fact that this was a great day for South African rugby,' the deputy president, F W de Klerk, said. 'When President Mandela and I went on to the pitch together to meet the teams it was a symbol of what is happening in this country. Together we are building a new nation. Now all that we have to do is build a new team.'
South Africa: Penalties Joubert 5.
England: Tries Clarke, Andrew. Conversions Andrew 2. Penalties Andrew 5. Drop goal Andrew.
SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert (Natal); J Small (Natal), P Muller (Natal), B Venter (Orange Free State), C Williams (Western Province); H le Roux (Transvaal), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); A le Roux (OFS), J Allen (Natal), B Swart (Transvaal), H Strydom (Transvaal), S Atherton (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal, capt), F van Heerden (WP), T Strauss (WP).
ENGLAND: P Hull (Bristol); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), P de Glanville (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard (Harlequins), B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Bayfield (Northampton), N Redman (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke (Bath), D Richards (Leicester). Replacement: S Ojomoh (Bath) for Richards, 56.
Referee: C Hawke (New Zealand).
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