England not only failed to beat a South Africa team robbed of nine first-choice stars but produced another shocking display at Twickenham to conclude an awful autumn campaign.
These two teams met in the final of the last World Cup. Statistically speaking, that suggested England and South Africa were the No 1 and No 2 teams in the world at the end of 2019. A lot has changed since then and this game proved it.
The Springboks fully deserved to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup four years ago. Their defeat of England in that Yokohama final was clinical and impressive. England didn’t fire that day.
England trudge off the pitch after their embarrassing 13-27 defeat to South Africa on Saturday
Jones is going to cop a lot of heat in the next few days – he should be under severe pressure
Since that game in Japan, Eddie Jones’ side has regressed badly. In his latest book, head coach Jones talks about his plan to ‘turn England into the world’s greatest team.’
The reality is that right now, they are nowhere near achieving that aim.
Their latest defeat came at the hands of a reserve South Africa side.
The Springboks were without Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager and Duane Vermeulen for this game due to a combination of injury and unavailability. This game took place out of World Rugby’s designated Test window meaning South Africa’s foreign-based stars couldn’t play. It mattered little.
The first half summed up everything that is wrong with England and Test rugby currently.
England’s tactical kicking was beyond poor. Owen Farrell missed two penalties he would normally slot in his sleep. Farrell’s frustration at missing his second week was more than obvious.
Eddie Jones will be allowed to carry on as he likes yet again – he won’t be relieved from his position as head coach
Freddie Steward made uncharacteristic errors of his own and his team were lucky not to go down to 14 men in the first half. Jones’ players were yet again guilty of poor discipline.
The fact England managed only six seconds in the South African 22 in the opening 40 minutes told its own story. Away from the home struggles, there were also endless scrum resets and long delays.
Referee Angus Gardner tried, and failed, to send the drinks carriers away. They are a blight on the game.
South Africa didn’t let it bother them. The Springboks take plenty of pelters for their apparent endless physicality and little running rugby. That was not the case at Twickenham.
England’s defeat to South Africa completed what has been their worst week in rugby history
Their first-half try, finished by the fine wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, was outstanding as they made England pay for a poor kick and even worse chase.
England’s mass rotation at the interval showed exactly what Jones thought of his team’s first 40. On came Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Will Stuart and Jack Nowell. It made no difference.
As he had in the first half, South Africa fly-half Damian Willemse slotted a brilliant drop goal when the game resumed. The Twickenham crowd tried to rally their team.
Pre-match, the fireworks and lightshow had lit up the home of English rugby. The same had taken place before the dramatic draw with New Zealand.
South Africa’s Kurt-Lee Arendse finished an outstanding move to score a try in the first-half
But the unfortunate truth for Jones and his players is they have failed to back-up the off-the-field razzmatazz on the pitch.
Jonny Hill’s needless throwing off Faf de Klerk, which meant an England penalty was turned back the other way, summed up more brainless home rugby.
Hill’s stupid penalty concession gave South Africa the field position from which they forced Tom Curry to be yellow carded and then crossed for their second try.
Even if Eben Etzebeth’s grounding might have looked suspect, South Africa’s dominance and England’s paucity was clear. Oasis’ Wonderwall rang out around Twickenham. There was nothing wonderous about this England display.
England managed only six seconds in the South African 22 in the opening 40 minutes
Even when South Africa’s replacement Thomas du Toit was red carded, England huffed and puffed against 14 men. After being hit high by Du Toit, Cowan-Dickie’s line-out throw went all wrong. It summed up another evening to forget for England.
They saved their worst display of the autumn for their last game which means Jones’ side go into a World Cup year miles off the pace of the best teams on the planet.
Henry Slade’s late consolation can’t change that fact. Two losses, a draw, and only a win over Japan this month is not good enough for a team of England’s calibre.
The home supporters were leaving in their droves even before the final whistle went.