Boks to the drawing board for White's jaded travellers

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The Independent Online

South Africa's worst display of the year, England's best since the World Cup final. It wasn't so much a pitch-length's difference between these two teams at Twickenham yesterday, more an entire street.

South Africa's worst display of the year, England's best since the World Cup final. It wasn't so much a pitch-length's difference between these two teams at Twickenham yesterday, more an entire street.

The Springboks were mentally jaded, and yards off the pace. The messy rendition of their anthem before a ball was kicked was a distressing indication of what was to come from Jake White's men when the action began.

South Africa lost because they were overwhelmed up front, made copious handling errors, lacked the fire and urgency of England and missed a host of first tackles. Add to that their hopeless lack of composure and unforced errors when they did have possession, not to mention the penalties they conceded, and you had a dire display, far worse than was indicated by the 16-point gap between the sides at the conclusion.

England's appetite for the job - they were full of fire and hunger - was in stark contrast to that of their opponents. The South Africans never truly contested a single restart kick, indicative of the fact that they arrived on this tour operating on a nearly empty tank after 10 solid months of rugby. What happened yesterday at Twickenham, and to a certain extent in Dublin seven days earlier, was a mirror image of the tired, disorganised mob England looked on tour in New Zealand and Australia at the end of their season.

If ever a compelling case was being drawn up for a global season, whatever the difficulties and inevitable assaults on tradition that will entail, then these tours have emerged as vital evidence. The Springboks conceded 11 penalties against six but, just as crucially, missed 12 tackles. Their first tackles looked wobbly and unconvincing throughout, allowing England to play much of the game on the front foot. The turnovers, of which the Springboks were repeatedly guilty, continued to hand England an advantage.

Even world-class players in the South African team such as Schalk Burger and Joe van Niekerk are being dragged down to the level of ordinary mortals by their brutal playing schedule. Neither back-rower looked his normal self yesterday, and Twickenham's leaden skies provided a fitting backdrop toa poor Springbok performance.

Simply going through the motions at this level, against a team who are fit, fresh and up for the fray, is a recipe for disaster. It is those who pay large amounts of money to see a proper contest who are being cheated.

England were good, but the South Africans, jittery in defence, rushed and without composure in possession and short of self-belief and creativity, were just inept.

Losing momentum so often clearly dismayed them and lowered their morale still further. Just once, when Jaco van der Westhuyzen broke away late in the game and sent the pacy Bryan Habana over for a debut try, did the Boks break the trend. But you have to say that score was more down to Charlie Hodgson's missed one-on-one tackle on Van der Westhuyzen than any creative brilliance by the Springbok back line.

The South Africans had neither the advantage up front nor the composure to force England's flat, aggressive defence to turn. This was richly ironic, for it was the Boks' fast and furious defence that had been a key factor in their Tri-Nations wins over New Zealand and Australia earlier in the year. Thus, any Springbok attacks were launched on the high wire of heavy pressure, with lobbed passes of a wet, greasy ball. No wonder so many came to grief.

Worse still, when the South Africans did get the ball down the entire line, it was almost invariably a lazy, lateral movement. The English defence drifted and then smashed the wings. Nothing could have been simpler from a defensive point of view, or more demor-alising for the weary tourists.

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