The Springboks slumped to a negative win-loss record under head coach Rassie Erasmus on Saturday 3 November, after a controversial call from referee Angus Gardner at the end of the match allowed England to take home a 12-11 victory in Twickenham.
South Africa had dominated all aspects of the match against their hosts in the first half of the game, however failed to convert opportunities into points on multiple occasions. A number of handling errors after solid attacking phases, as well as a poor performance at lineout time from Malcolm Marx, prevented the Springboks from drawing away on the scoreboard.
The English came out firing in the second half, improving in all aspects from their first half showing. Despite the new Springbok defence remaining firm, their discipline let them down, and allowed England to gain the lead through the boot of Owen Farrell. Farrell would become an even bigger factor in the game at the death.
At the death, Farrell affected a massive hit on Springbok centre, Andre Esterhuizen, which many South African and neutral rugby fans saw as a tackle which lead with the shoulder to the neck, and showed no real attempt to wrap arms around the attacker. Many commenters on Twitter saw this as the moment that cost the Springboks the match; however the Springboks proved their own worst enemy throughout the second half.
After the match, the World Rugby citing commission decided that the tackle did not warrant a citing, and as such was deemed within the laws of the game. Erasmus humorously decided to take this decision to mean that the tackle is a valid tactic, and was therefore seen at training on Monday 5 November training his side in this tactic. He had previously responded to the question of the legality of the tackle, stating, “It is very effective, if it is legal. We should definitely be practising those tackles, as they are very effective.”
Erasmus’s good humour after the match lends to his confidence in his side’s ability to bounce back from the defeat. They have been bolstered with the arrival of six players into their squad for the remainder of the tour.
An injury to bruising Springbok stalwart, Eben Etsebeth, was made less impactful with the arrival of powerhouse Franco Mostert, while the Springboks’ breakdown woes from last week will likely be relieved by the inclusion of Francois Louw in the squad. They will also welcome back Vincent Koch to a powerful forward pack.
The Springbok backline will also be bolstered by the return of Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and the increasingly vital Faf de Klerk to the squad. De Klerk’s presence was sorely missed in the defeat to England, as he had previously played the largest role in the Springboks season up to this point.
These returns will likely prove vital to the Springboks’ cause in their match up against Le Bleus in Paris on Saturday night.