5 things we learned from England’s second Test defeat to South Africa
Let us examine five things learned from the Free State Stadium showdown.
England fell to a 23-12 defeat in their second Test against South Africa that has placed the series beyond their reach with the climax to the tour still to come in Cape Town.
Here, Press Association Sport examines five things learned from the Free State Stadium showdown.
Engulfed by crisis
The Eddie Jones regime is in crisis. For the first time in a stewardship spanning 30 Tests and 24 victories, the Australian is facing questions over his future. The slump that began at the midway stage of the Natwest 6 Nations has gathered momentum in South Africa. The conundrum facing the Rugby Football Union is when to act if the collapse in results continues unchecked, but as it stands, Jones’ win percentage remains healthy at 82.75 per cent and there are no plans to remove him.
Tough road ahead
England desperately need a win but the fixture list that was once so kind to Jones is doing him few favours now. The climax to the South Africa series awaits at Newlands before the Springboks and then New Zealand visit Twickenham in the autumn and it is not until they face Japan on November 17 that the quality of opposition drops. Warren Gatland’s mischievous prediction made during the Six Nations that England face an extended losing run is proving correct.
The strain of losing five successive Tests is beginning to show. Joe Marler swore at a South African fan after Saturday’s decisive loss at Free State Stadium before his Harlequins team-mate Mike Brown also joined in the verbal hostilities. Ben Youngs walked away from an interview with a rights-holding broadcaster after giving one curt answer, while Owen Farrell’s confrontational manner with referee Romain Poite did little to endear him to the Frenchman.
#SaracensSeasonStats@Mako_Vunipola— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) June 6, 2018
Mins Played: 974
Metres Made: 404
Defenders Beaten: 28
Tackle Completion Rate: 94.2%
Turnovers: 7#TogetherSaracens 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/Vtoe5gfEXk
What has happened to those Saracens player who swept all before them during last month’s triumphant Aviva Premiership play-off campaign? Just three weeks after Mako Vunipola was being hailed as the best forward in the world, he produced his worst performance for England. Jamie George has made minimal impact at hooker, Maro Itoje is floundering, Farrell’s leadership is under scrutiny and Billy Vunipola could be returning home with a recurrence of the fractured arm that blighted him last season. It is surely no coincidence that all but Billy Vunipola were mainstays of last year’s Lions Test team.
Transformation is working
Meanwhile, in South Africa the outlook is rosy. Apart from their welcome revival on the pitch, this series is bearing the fruit of transformation. Siya Kolisi is the nation’s first black Test captain and at Ellis Park coach Rassie Erasmus fielded an all black front row to write an additional piece of history. And Free State Stadium was the setting for another landmark moment when Tendai Mtawarira became the first black African to make 100 Test appearances for the Springboks, his arrival on to the pitch in the Afrikaners’ heartland of Bloemfontein greeted by chants of “Beast, Beast”.