Boks teach England a harsh lesson in Jo'burg

Boks teach England a harsh lesson in Jo'burg

A powerful 50 minutes from South Africa was enough to seal a series victory over a spirited England side who were physically dominated at Ellis Park.

After picking a side to try and contain South Africa in the opening test, Stuart Lancaster shook things up for the second test and looked to try and attack the hosts out wide. Jonathan Joseph was moved to 13 and Toby Flood replaced Owen Farrell at fly-half, in a move to try and open up England's attacking options.

But in their quest for a more expansive style of play England seemed to forget about route one brute force the South African's love to bring to the game. They were all over the shop in the first period. This wasn't just a step up from the Six Nations; it was a whole skyscraper above anything this side have previously faced.

The physicality the Boks brought to the first 40 minutes was truly something to behold.

The relentless waves of big runners coming from deep was unstoppable, and when England eventually brought these giants to the floor any attempt to get near the ball was met by a ferocious clear-out of the ruck. South Africa consistently produced quick ball and this nullified any chance that England defence had of stopping to the ball carrier breaking the advantage-line.

The first try for Willem Alberts inside the first 10 minutes had a massive slice of fortune attached to it and it was a horrible call from the officials. But there was nothing fortuitous about the way Bismarck Du Plessis battered his way over the line, quickly followed by the sharp Francois Hougaard.

The defence which looked so solid during the Six Nations, was been pummelled into the Ellis Park turf. The stats showed that Lancaster's side made 177 tackles but crucially they missed 35. If you are going to win in the South Africa you can't afford to miss any tackles, especially the first-up hits.

England showed two flashes in the first half of their attacking ability. Firstly through full-back Ben Foden who cut through the defence but was unable to find his support. The second was Toby Flood's score, which was a brilliant piece of quick thinking by Ben Youngs, who had one of his best games in an England shirt.

The 15 point lead Heyneke Meyer's side held at the break was completely deserved.

However a couple of key changes on both sides changed the complexion of the game. Meyer withdrew many of his frontline forwards including Bismarck Du Plessis and Alberts, despite the fact they had so consistently got the Boks on the front-foot.

On the English side Tom Palmer and Alex Corbisiero gave the tourists a more solid set-piece, and the introduction of Thomas Waldrom at number eight gave England some much needed momentum. Suddenly the impetus was with England and it was the South Africans who were on the back-foot and two tries from scrum-half Youngs got his side back in the game.

But just as England seemed to be on the verge of drawing level, the problems that hurt them so badly earlier on the match returned. A first up tackle on winger JP Pietersen was missed and once the Boks were in behind England they showed a clinical edge to score the try that sealed the victory.

Lancaster's side showed tremendous spirit and guts to haul themselves back into the game after taking such a hammering in the first-half. A lot of credit should go to Chris Robshaw who once again led his side magnificently. Waldrom was positive with ball in hand and looked right at home in test rugby.

Toby Flood controlled the game well once England were able to provide him with some quality possession. In midfield Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph were shackled well by the Springboks defence, going forward they are the combination England should stick with.

Nevertheless England were taught a unforgiving lesson on Saturday, they learnt a great deal about the level of physicality and intensity needed to compete with the southern hemisphere big guns. Sometimes the game isn't about playing a wide expansive game, sometimes it's about rolling up the sleeves and smashing the man in front of you.

There is no doubting England have the heart of a great side, but in order to compete with the best they need to find a steel in the pack, so that the first 25 minutes we saw at Eliis Park are never repeated.