England showed a determined attitude to hold on for a 14-14 draw with an underwhelming Springbok side in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
If you watched today's match in Sydney and then the match in Hamilton, you would have wondered what sort of game this was. There was kicking and there was bashing and there was little else. Maybe it was the drizzle, maybe it was the wind. Whatever it was there was nothing pleasing about the game at all and it was sad to hear the eager citizens of the Friendly City boo their own Springboks in their elegant, packed stadium. It was not a good evening for South African rugby.
A draw suggests that honours were even. That is not quite true. The score was even but England managed more good things than the Springboks whose athletic abilities saw them get to a draw. England were better than they were on the drive, better than they were in stopping the drive and much, much better at kicking and chasing.
The Springboks had a good second half in Durban and a good first half in Johannesburg. Neither happened in this match, and yet they could have won just if their kicker had been adequate. Morné Steyn missed two penalty kicks, a conversion and a comfortable dropped goal. That is a lot of lost points. He has not had a happy time in this series - and he had a kick out of hand charged down by Tom Palmer, the lead-up to England's try.
François Hougaard also had a kick charged down - again from one of those strung-out, delayed ruck things. He also had a poor clearing kick and poor box kicks.
The Springbok who performed best was the one whose selection was criticised in many quarters - Wynand Olivier. Not only was his tackling excellent but he was the one who managed to get the Springboks moving forward, as he did in the lead-up to JP Pietersen's try.
After the anthems and the silence to mark the death of Dolf Bekker and the six drowned Motherwell players, England kicked off into the wind and South Africa knocked on. England attacked and Marcell Coetzee was penalised at the tackle. Toby Flood goaled. 3-0 after a minute. He could have doubled the score after Gio Aplon knocked on a high kick and Bismarck du Plessis was offside. But Flood was short and wide.
Thomas Waldrom was penalised at a tackle and Steyn goaled the long, angled kick. 3-3 after 7 minutes.
Palmer charged down a Steyn kick when time did not seem a problem and the South Africans were scampering in defence. The English bashed and when the Springboks were penalised Danny Care took a tap five metres out and drove through Jannie du Plessis to score. Flood missed the fairly easy kick. He had to leave the field, replaced by Owen Farrell. 8-3 after 12 minutes.
At this stage England were enjoying 71% of possession.
When Palmer was penalised, Steyn made it 8-6 and then 9-8 when James Haskell was penalised. That was the score after 27 minutes and the half-time score.
Aplon caught an up-'n-under and Chris Ashton flattened him. Aplon was penalised and Farrell made it 11-9 after 44 minutes.
Ruan Pienaar came on for Hougaard after 49 minutes, Dylan Hartley was yellow-carded for a tackle infringement and the Springboks turned a penalty into an attacking line-out but they threw deep and lost it. Of the first four line-outs in the second half they lost two and threw one in skew.
But it was from a line-out that Olivier broke, running straight. The Springboks' bashed ahead off lots of quick ball and then went wide right where JP Pietersen had an overlap and scored. 14-11 after 61 minutes.
So the score stayed till late in the half England started getting go-forward again in the tackle and the Springboks were penalised for a 'whip wheel' at a scrum and Farrell goaled the easy kick. 14-14 with 8 minutes to play.
Aplon swept through on a characteristic counterattack, Steyn missed a drop, the Springboks went in for slow bashing and were penalised. Then England did the bashing in 20 phases till the siren went and Farrell dropped for a goal, a kick neither high enough or straight enough to ear points.
And the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Thomas Waldrom, Chris Ashton and Wynand Olivier were candidates but our choice is lively Danny Care who did well all the things that a scrumhalf is required to do.
Moment of the Match: Danny Care's daring try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody really.
For South Africa:
Pens: Steyn 3
Pens: Flood, Farrell 2
Yellow card: Dylan Hartley (repeated infringements)
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 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 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Paul Doran Jones, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Brad Barritt.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)