Not that it would be any consolation to England's beaten captain, Chris Robshaw, but the Springboks' coach, Heyneke Meyer, sympathised with him up to a point over the debatable late decision to kick for the posts and leave themselves a point behind rather than go for the try they needed to win the match.
Meyer called the choice that faced Robshaw "a lose-lose situation", implying that England were up against it every which way.
There were two minutes and 20 seconds remaining and England were trailing 16-12 when they stood over a penalty 35 metres from the posts. Robshaw immediately nominated the kick at goal but Owen Farrell, England's replacement fly-half, appeared to take issue with his skipper's choice. Television replays showed Robshaw apparently using up valuable seconds asking referee Nigel Owens if he could change his mind, but Owens correctly refused, Farrell was obliged to kick the goal and any chance of England scoring again was lost when they fumbled South Africa's restart.
Robshaw said: "We discussed it and I have to make those calls, it's on me. I thought we had time [to score again], but we didn't catch the restart and it didn't go our way. We had tried to drive them a couple of times before and didn't have much luck, and that was part of my thinking.'' Asked whether the deliberation had in part been forced by Robshaw's much-discussed choice of line-outs over goal kicks in the previous week's loss to Australia, Farrell said: "The people here are strong enough characters to know what to do." England's head coach, Stuart Lancaster, said: "We will wait to discuss the decisions until the emotion's taken out of it. Fundamentally the purpose of the captain is to make the decisions and the players back him."
Farrell – who also described the solitary try of the match by South Africa as "a freak" – had come on for Toby Flood, who is set to miss England's final autumn match against the All Blacks on Saturday with a toe injury, although a scan last night showed no fracture.
Lancaster now needs to revitalise a team with four losses and a draw in their past six matches, a run broken only by a win over lowly Fiji. He suggested South Africa had an inbuilt advantage by arriving for their end-of-season tour – they have also won in Ireland and Scotland – on the back of the high-grade Rugby Championship.
Robshaw also went for the brave-face view, when he said: "The most important thing is we are creating chances. It's now going that extra five, 10 per cent and finishing them off."Reuse content