Back-and-forth Boks beat England to clinch series
JP Pietersen was named man-of-the-match as South Africa sealed the series against England with a closely fought 36-27 victory in Johannesburg.
The Springboks overcame some nervous moments in the dying moments to clinch the three Test series with a 36-27 victory over England at Ellis Park on Saturday.
While the Springboks led 25-10 going into the half-time break with three tries to one by the Roses, there were a few chances that went astray.
The hosts, however, squandered an 18-point lead to give the English a sniff of victory in the second half.
The Boks made a promising start as they progressed within metres of the tryline with Bryan Habana unable to finish.
Last week the breakdown area was of a concern for the Boks especially in the first half, but it looked much better on Saturday.
With the rucks looking in better shape, scrumhalf Francois Hougaard was able to supply the backline with crisp service.
The South Africans opened their account with a bit of luck after only three minutes of play with Willem Alberts capitalising on an English mistake.
On their own scrum feed, England allowed the ball to roll straight through the tunnel with Alberts picking the ball up on the blindside to score in the corner.
The hosts once again got onto the scoreboard five minutes later with Bismarck du Plessis scoring the second try of the match.
The Boks took the ball through 12 phases with the ball finally going to Du Plessis, who powered his way over the line with a few white jerseys clinging on, with Morne Steyn converting to take the scores to 12-0.
Flood of points
The tourists scored their first points of the match thanks to a Toby Flood penalty conversion in the ninth minute.
Steyn, however, returned South Africa’s lead to 12-points six minutes later with a penalty conversion.
The Boks kept on grinding their way over the advantage line as they set up a number of bulldozing runs.
The forwards’ hard graft finally paid off with Francois Hougaard scoring thanks to a flick pass from Du Plessis shortly before the line.
The fleet footed scrumhalf beat the defenders with a sidestep and finished with a dive over the line, with Steyn converting to extend the lead to 19-points.
The English finally made scored their first five-pointer of the evening as scrumhalf Ben Youngs caught the Boks off guard with a quick tap inside the danger zone which ended in a try for Flood who also converted.
With the scores on 22-10, Steyn added six more points with a drop goal and a penalty conversion.
Whereas the Boks were firing on all cylinders in the first half, they looked rattled in the second half with the Roses launching an impressive comeback with two Youngs tries.
The second stanza started with a Steyn penalty conversion extending the Boks’ lead to 18 points.
This, however, was the last time the hosts looked comfortably in the driving seat as things started to go pear shaped.
Youngs scored his first converted try in the 51st minute but at this point it only looked like a slight blemish in South Africa’s performance.
Steyn added another three-pointer with a penalty attempt to take the scores to 31-17.
The English scrumhalf then scored his second try two minutes later after the Boks were unable to stop the visitors’ maul early on.
Flood converted and also added a three-pointer to bring his side within four points of the hosts.
Matters started to look ominous for the Boks as the English looked resolute in attempting to claim a rare victory at Ellis Park.
Bok wing JP Pietersen, however, initiated the spark that led to his try which ultimately clinched the series for his country.
He made a piercing run through the midfield but was stopped in the 22 area but the momentum saw the Boks moving within metres of the line.
Pierre Spies made the first stab for the line but his efforts was to no avail. The ball then finally made it to Pietersen on the wing to score the try, with Steyn converting.
Scorers: South Africa 36 (25): Tries: Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, JP Pietersen. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (3). Drop goal: Steyn.
England 27(10): Tries: Toby Flood, Ben Youngs (2). Conversions: Flood (3) Penalties: Toby Flood (2).—Sapa.