What most pleased England about their defiant win over Springboks
Eddie Jones paused for breath in the aftermath of the gripping 27-26 England win over the Springboks to highlight what most pleased him and what the victory means in the bigger picture for his reshaped side. Having drawn a line in the sand post the Lions tour and chosen an Autumn Nations Series squad that was a marriage of some seasoned players from the 2021 fifth-place Six Nations and the influx of youngsters given a first chance in the summer series, his England wrapped up their unbeaten three-game November in the most defiant fashion.
There were pre-game concerns about the inexperience of two/thirds of their starting front row and while they enjoyed a cracking start with England racing into a 17-3 lead, all hands were then needed to the pump when the Springboks turned the screw with their scrum and maul in the second half.
Penalty points enabled the visitors to eventually wipe out a lead England had held in the match for 57 long minutes but rather than allow the setback to herald the end for Jones’ new-look team, it instead ignited a thrilling finish that featured a well-worked try for each team, a yellow card for both and penalties and incidents galore in an epic denouement sealed by Marcus Smith’s 80th-minute kick.
“Our stated aim is to win the World Cup, this is the end of our fifth last campaign, our next campaign is the Six Nations and we want to be better in the next campaign,” explained Jones, occupying the same seat in the England media room that had just been vacated minutes earlier by the vanquished Jacques Nienaber.
“It just gives the players a lot of confidence. They have had a great time, they have worked hard, they have enjoyed each other’s company. They will go back and work hard for their clubs and then when they come in for Six Nations they will have a spring in their step. They will want to get together and play good rugby.
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“With the first try (last weekend) against Australia and a couple of tries we scored today, there was some good, really aggressive attack in our game and then we had to absorb the fight in the set-piece. At times the Springboks got on top of us but we managed to edge out enough quality possession to score enough points.
“Our young guys will learn so much from a Test match like that where South Africa keep coming at you. They don’t stop playing with that intensity. They are a physical team and you learn that is what Test rugby is about. That is a proper Test match where we had an advantage probably in the loose play and they had an advantage in the set-piece.
“We were able to get enough points in the first half to lead, they were accumulating points in the second half through their set-piece and then we were able to find a way to win the game. That is proper Test match rugby and that is why Test match rugby is loved because you don’t know where it is going to go. What you need to do to win and I am sure those 82,000 fans who were there loved it.”
As delighted as he was with the last-gasp victory, Jones didn’t over-indulge in the euphoria that had the bars in the stadium still jammed for hours afterwards with celebrating supporters drinking in the England victory while Wales versus Australia played out anonymously on adjacent TV screens.
“I have to acknowledge South Africa, how tough it has been for them,” suggested the Australian. “They have had 18 weeks on the road, a long time away from home. The spirit and the toughness they played with was absolutely outstanding.
“We got away a little bit in the first half and we knew they would come back in the second half because, unlike most top countries, they tend to be behind at half-time and win the second half, so we knew they would come back and we just had to hang in there, absorb the punishment, which we did, and when we got the opportunity we were good enough to take it.”
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