Rugby Union: Revitalised Springboks defy logic to restore pride: South Africa bounce back to level series

Click to follow
South Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

ENGLAND were a party to history at Newlands, but not of the sort they had hoped nor that most people had expected. In the Mother City, the Springboks produced the mother of all performances to salvage self-respect after their English thrashing of the week before.

With it they salvaged the series, but more important for them was that this was their first home victory since readmission to world rugby two years ago. Where they had been powerless before the England onslaught in Pretoria, here it was the other way around. And although the South Africans squandered chances that would have put the game as far beyond England in as swift a time as the first Test had been put beyond them, they sustained their superiority long enough to outscore Will Carling's team even more heavily than they had themselves been outscored at Loftus Versfeld.

Thus was completed a bizarre eight days during which every piece of logic had been defied. After four defeats in the five pre-Test matches, England had no obvious cause for optimism when they went into the Pretoria game. Yet they beat South Africa so conclusively that, when they got here, the logical conclusions were all precisely the opposite. Good for the Springboks to prove us all wrong, and to show that rugby can be as unpredictable as the bounce of an oval ball. 'It's a great honour to make the Springbok jersey proud again,' Francois Pienaar, South Africa's impressive captain, said. Now he will lead his Springboks to New Zealand.

His team had taken the game to England in a manner that had seemed unthinkable a week earlier. The Springbok forwards combined more smoothly from the very first moments at Newlands than they ever did at Loftus. If passes had stuck, South Africa would have been even further ahead after 20 minutes than England had been in the first Test. But instead England tackled dauntlessly and those chances were lost. Andre Joubert missed his first three penalty attempts where Rob Andrew had kicked his; knock- ons by Brendan Venter and Chester Williams and a forward pass from Venter to Pieter Muller cost tries where Ben Clarke and Andrew had scored theirs.

Even when Hennie le Roux began finding the target in Joubert's stead, Andrew's penalties pegged away at South Africa's lead so that, astoundingly, the score stood at

12-9 with only a dozen minutes left. Then Andrew, the paragon of Pretoria, dropped a pass from Tim Rodber to give the Springboks the attacking scrum from which Adriaan Richter and Pienaar combined for Le Roux's try.

With injury time upon them, England conceded possession again when Rodber was stripped of the ball, and from 80 yards the new scrum-half, Johan Roux, interchanged twice with Joost van der Westhuizen, a scrum-half playing replacement wing, before Joubert received the scoring pass.

That it was forward scarcely mattered, though the losers did not care for the refereeing. Having been quite content with the line- out latitude given by Colin Hawke first time round, the England forwards were uncomprehending at being heavily penalised on Saturday. 'It was almost as if he decided to referee the game in a completely different way,' said Martin Bayfield, who suffered more than anyone from the New Zealander's strictures. 'Our working of the line-out was no different from last week and yet we got penalised.' This has become a familiar English complaint on this tour, even if the subjects were previously South Africans.

The fact remains that in a Test match England once again found it impossible to adapt their game, however annoying and awkward it may have been, to unexpected interpretations. 'We have given away a lot of penalties on this tour and it's something we will have to address when we get home,' Dick Best, the coach, said.

Privately, England were a lot more aggrieved than they conceded publicly. In the context of a stuffing they would have been turkeys to have gone as far as Stuart Barnes, then the England B captain, when he called Hawke a cheat after his team had lost to a New Zealand XV in Pukekohe in 1992. But it is fair to say Jack Rowell, the manager, remembers him well.

This only goes to show how perceptions change. Post-Pretoria there were not too many complaints, not from England anyway, and the South African management then took the practical step of going through the video with Hawke to establish precisely where and how they had been at fault in the first Test. Which, in turn, made England still more


At least they could graciously accept that it was a combination of themselves and the Springboks - and not the referee - that cost them a historic 2-0 series win, something no visiting side have achieved here. Looking on the bright side, in their three previous major southern-hemisphere series England had never gained a share.

It is meagre consolation after the euphoria of Pretoria. Much that went right there went wrong here. For one thing, there was no back-row running-off worth speaking of, partly because Rodber was plainly short of fitness after his traumatic week, and partly because the South African front five were so superior to their immediate predecessors that none of the England pack could develop any sort of role in attack.

Instead it was more or less endless defence, relieved only by Andrew's occasional penalties and a couple of smart moves which saw Rory Underwood failing to scurry for the corner when confronted by Richter and the ball being deliberately flung into touch, without penalty, by James Small after Paul Hull's lovely burst had given a run to Tony Underwood.

Hull's contribution, by turn courageous and creative, was a reasonable saving grace but the honours belonged to the Springboks, who had not won a proper Test victory at home since England were last here in 1984.

'In the history of South African rugby, it will go down as one of our proudest moments,' Jannie Engelbrecht, the team manager and former Springbok great, suggested, and who are the rest of us to argue?

South Africa: Tries H le Roux, Joubert; Conversion Joubert; Penalties H le Roux 3, Joubert 2. England: Penalties Andrew 3.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert; J Small, P Muller (Natal), B Venter (Orange Free State), C Williams (Western Province); H le Roux, J Roux; B Swart (Transvaal), J Allan (Natal), J le Roux (Transvaal), M Andrews, S Atherton (Natal), I Macdonald (Transvaal), A Richter (Northern Trsnavaal), F Pienaar (Transvaal, capt). Replacements: J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal) for Williams, 32; F van Heerden (Western Province) for Macdonald, 67.

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, B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Bayfield (Northampton), N Redman (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke, S Ojomoh (Bath).

Referee: C Hawke (New Zealand).

(Photograph omitted)