South Africa, with a blistering start, took an unassailable 2-0 series lead over England in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Outscoring the tourists four tries to three, the Springboks scored a deserved 36-27 win over a willing English team.
In Durban South Africa had a poor first half but a great second half and won. In Johannesburg they had a great first half of the first half and an atrocious second half and won.
Winning is wonderful, but is scoring more points than the opposition enough to feel satisfied? It seems highly unlikely.
Analysing the reason for the collapse from 22-3 to hanging on to win is interesting.
There were injuries, there were many replacements, there was the switch from the dominant scrum to a shambles, there was disjoined defence and there was England's steady plod that did not give up hope. Add into the mix Morné Steyn's kicking.
During the week he said he was so happy to be back on the Highveld where he was used to kicking. He missed two easy penalty kicks at goal and two conversions, which were not difficult, he kicked a kick-off directly into touch and kicked dead in general play which cost the Springboks 70 metres. He also kicked away two turnovers without profit. It was sad and yet everybody knows the kicking talent that he has.
The first quarter of the game held the promise of a runaway victory for the Springboks. The difference from Durban was the speed with which they played.
There were no more delaying tactics at tackles as François Hougaard cleared the ball with speed and accuracy. That purple patch produced three tries in 19 minutes. South Africa were lording it over England who had the look of beaten men, but they clearly did not accept defeat and in that first half scored a wonderful try when they played quickly.
There were 60,101 spectators in the great ground and they stood in silence to the memory of two great Springboks who died in the week - Willem Barnard and Mof Myburgh. They sang the national anthem with gusto. They sang Olé before there was any sign of victory. But the early sign of the glorious advent of victory was there.
The Springboks started running off their quick service and Bismarck du Plessis found Bryan Habana on the wing. He was tackled five metres from the line and tried to get the ball back to Bismarck du Plessis who knocked on. England put the ball into a scrum five metres from their line but the ball shot out of the side. Willem Alberts picked it up and scored the easiest try of all his life. He was so surprised by it that he did not run round to make a better angle and Morné Steyn missed the conversion. 5-0 after three minutes.
Having conceded a try on their own scrum. England added to their problems. Chris Ashton was penalised for an air tackle on Juandré Kruger at the kick-off and then Ben Foden knocked on a high kick. The Springboks were back attacking. Marcell Coetzee, Pierre Spies, Coetzee again, Eben Etzebeth and Bismarck du Plessis were close. In fact Du Plessis was over and the TMO was able to advise a try under the posts. 12-0 after seven minutes.
But England won the kick-off and Foden raced through till Pat Lambie tackled him England played phases and Coetzee was penalised at a tackle. 12-3 after nine minutes. It was a fast game.
JP Pietersen grubbered down to the England line where Ben Youngs saved but conceded a five-metre scrum in doing so as Jean de Villiers caught him. England were suffering in the scrums and were penalised. 15-3 after 15 minutes, and back the Springboks came bashing away with Tendai Mtawarira, Coetzee, Spies and Pietersen close till Hougaard did some neat footwork and scored. Morné Steyn converted. 22-3.
That was the best Springbok period in both Tests.
England got into South African territory, which was largely foreign to them up till then, and Morné Steyn was penalised at a tackle. Youngs tapped and raced ahead. He gave to Ashton who gave to Flood who raced over. The Springbok defence was largely absent. 22-10 after 23 minutes.
Three minutes later Morné Steyn kicked a dropped goal but then he missed an easy penalty. The Springboks could have had a fourth try when François Steyn grubbered and De Villiers gathered. He passed inside to Pietersen who dropped the ball under close pressure.
Wynand Olivier came on for Lambie who had hurt his ankle in the first half. Olivier went to inside centre and François Steyn to fullback. This was the start of changes.
The half-time score was 25-10.
From a scrum the Springboks attacked with Etzebeth, Bismarck du Plessis, Alberts and Spies close. but they had to be satisfied with a penalty. 28-10 after 46 minutes.
Then South Africa lost its own scrum and then its own line-out, in the process conceding seven points. England had attacked and Thomas Waldrom was put out near the left corner. Bismarck du Plessis threw in over the outstretched arms of Juandré Kruger to grateful Ben Youngs who scored despite Alberts's attempt to stop him. 28-17.
Morné Steyn kicked a penalty and it was 31-17 after 58 minutes A penalty gave England a line-out in South African territory. They mauled and moved the maul towards the Springbok line. They did what the Springboks did best but could not do in this match. This set the visitors abashing. Alex Corbisiero was close and then Youngs picked up and scored at the feet of Spies. 31-24.
Morné Steyn kicked the kick-off directly out. England murdered the South African scrum and South Africa were penalised. 31-27 with 16 minutes to play. The momentum was all with England.
Steyn missed an easy penalty but then rescue was at hand with Pietersen in the role of St George, Tom Mix and Superman. England kicked downfield and Pietersen put in the best run of the day - a long one past defender after defender. The Springboks again played quickly and Pietersen, who had started it all, finished with a try that took the score to 36-27, and South Africa had won the series.
Man of the Match: JP Pietersen whose defence was excellent and who enjoyed two wonderful attacking moments, one which nearly bought a try and one which sealed the series.
Villain of the Match: There was nothing untoward - just some errors.
Moment of the Match: JP Pietersen's try signed off with a swanky dive.
For South Africa:
Tries: Alberts, B du Plessis, Hougaard, Pietersen
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 3
Tries: Flood, Youngs 2
Cons: Flood 3
Pens: Flood 2
South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Bjorn Basson.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 David Strettle, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Alex Goode.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
By Paul Dobson