We threw it away, says White

South African rugby coach Jake White said on Saturday that his Springbok side threw away what would have been their first victory against England at Twickenham since 1997.

The Springboks surrendered an 18-point cushion to lose 23-21 and gift England coach Andy Robinson some breathing space as he battles to keep his job.

White, however, will be under immense pressure to produce a positive result when the two sides meet again next weekend.

“We threw it away,” admitted White whose side lost 32-15 to Ireland last week.

“To be fair, though, we lost it more than we were beaten.”

The Springboks had built up an 18-6 lead when Jean de Villiers, so brilliant in creating Butch James’s opening try in the first half, was sin-binned for a professional foul.

Almost immediately England crossed the line. The Springboks’ woes were compounded when James, having made a successful return to flyhalf, was forced off the field, clutching his knee, with 20 minutes still to play.

James, Pierre Spies and Jacques Cronje all underwent scans on their knees after the match.

James’s replacement, Andre Pretorius, struggled to assert himself as South Africa slumped to their seventh successive defeat against England.

“With Butch injured and Andre not really coming on it is a concern,” admitted White.

“We actually haven’t won here since Henry Honiball played flyhalf for the Boks.
I suppose we’re looking for someone in that mould.”

But a lack of experience was South Africa’s biggest handicap, according to the coach, although White had deliberately left several senior players at home in order to develop his squad for next year’s World Cup.

“I think when you have so many inexperienced guys in the side, they couldn’t actually believe that they were in such a good position,” he said.

Skipper John Smit, bloodied and scarred after his front-row battles, said the Springbok dressing room was “a disgusting place to be” after the match.

“We needed to close the deal in the second half but we didn’t,” he added. “It’s gut-wrenching to lose. It hurts so much.

“But there are some positives. We bought a whole lot of youngsters over to learn and they did a lot of that today [Saturday]. But they have to learn not to rely just on luck. Instead of making silly mistakes—like the ones we made this afternoon—we have to do the basics right.”

Yet it was a veteran who gave England a reprieve.

Not only did De Villiers receive a yellow card, he earlier squandered an almost certain seven points when he charged for the corner himself instead of off-loading to wing Akona Ndungane or Spies.

“Jean has to take a good look at himself,” insisted White.

“Those were big calls and it completely changed the momentum of the game. You can’t play a rugby Test with just 14 players.

“When Jean was off we had to move Spies out of the back-row and into the backline to make up numbers.

“But you have to give England credit,” said White. “They showed character and we showed inexperience.”—Sapa-AFP

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