Smith leads the fight to keep White in place

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The Independent Online

So where to now for the agitators in South African rugby who had erected the scaffold to hang Jake White? For sure, this was no World Cup-winning performance by the Springboks, a point they would have known better than most despite their leaps of delight at the end. But if it showed one thing, it was that the Springbok players are firmly behind their embattled coach and there is nothing wrong with the spirit in the South African side.

White flies home to face his inquisitors on the South African rugby board this week and although he will not exactly be drinking champagne all the way back to Cape Town, he undoubtedly has cause for quiet cheer and encouragement. His consistent belief that he did have the players to emerge, however many of the big names were at home, certainly came through as the Boks fought back from a 14-3 deficit to win with 22 unanswered points in the last 48 minutes.

England may be hopeless, leaderless and rudderless but it still takes something special to achieve those sort of statistics in any international rugby match.

White should now survive and all the emotional, not to say ill-informed backchat about sacking him should be laid to rest. If he is allowed to get on with the job, White insists that he can put together a side capable of shocking the All Blacks at next year's World Cup. We shall see about that, but there's no doubt this victory should be the one that keeps him in place until the World Cup, and the muttering critics can climb back into their boxes until then.

Given that this was a technically poor game for most of the time, both England and South Africa finish this mini-series clutching at straws. But South Africa's claim that for them it was an experimental tour, rings a lot truer than anything emerging from the England camp.

There have been very tangible benefits from this trip for South African rugby. Francois Steyn has emerged as an audacious talent and, at last yesterday, the Springbok half-backs took such control that they ensured their side won the game.

Andre Pretorius' confidence can be fragile but he gradually recovered from a wobbly start to play a key role, dropping four goals which will give him headlines but, just as importantly, directing the play astutely. Inside him, Ricky Januarie played perhaps his best match for the Springboks, covering cleverly, tackling solidly and chivvying his forwards up all game. He was within a whisker of the man-of-the-match award.

Flanker Juan Smith rightly got that because of his superb all-round performance. Smith won copious amounts of quality line-out ball and the fact that it was at the tail meant the Boks had a dangerous attacking platform.

The South African pack at last punched their weight, making life tough for England in most phases, even though they had a wobbly period midway through the second half when England got on top. But the home side were not good enough to capitalise, and South Africa's sheer will, epitomised by CJ Van der Linde's valiant try, brought them through to a vital victory.

It was their first at Twickenham since 1997 and the first time they have beaten England anywhere in eight matches.

Now, the memory of that atrocious sequence and the critics' words should be consigned to history. South Africa can go forward significantly from this, now the monkey is at last off their backs.

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