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5 things we learned from England’s Test defeat to South Africa

Eddie Jones’ men were beaten 42-39 at Ellis Park.

England made a losing start to their three-Test series against South Africa after succumbing 42-39 at Ellis Park.

Here Press Association Sport examines five things learnt from the opening international.

A great series awaits

If the fireworks at Ellis Park are a sign of what is to come then the series promises to be a classic. It was a roller coaster of a first Test between two well-matched teams that left spectators struggling to make sense of what was happening as the pendulum swung back and forth. Adding to the spectacle was the individual brilliance of players such as Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Jonny May who provided a series of thrilling moments.

England wobbling

England coach Eddie Jones is under the spotlight (Paul Harding/PA)

While fans can look forward to two more high-octane Tests on the strength of the events in Johannesburg, Eddie Jones’ England are standing on the brink. Five successive defeats, one of them in a non-cap international against the Barbarians last month, has placed the Jones regime under heightened scrutiny. The victory-laden first two years of his reign are becoming a distant memory amid concerns over his methods and ability to inspire a revival.

Red rose robots

It was a callow team fielded by South Africa yet having established a stunning 21-point lead, England were torn apart for the next 50 minutes before hitting back with late tries from Maro Itoje and Jonny May. They were taken to the cleaners in possession and their ongoing inability to adapt to circumstances continues to haunt them. All but one of their backline are highly-accomplished kickers, making the absence of a meaningful kicking game at Ellis Park hard to fathom.

Altitude sickness

Ellis Park in Johannesburg is more than 1,700 metres above sea level (Adam Davy/Empics)

A question mark hovers over England’s approach to playing at altitude, a factor for the first two Tests in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. Jones decided to base his squad at sea level in Umhlanga and fly in one or two days before the matches when the received wisdom is to arrive a minimum of 10 days early to acclimatise or leave it as late as possible. The Australian is adamant, however, that the quality of the performance and not altitude dictates the outcome.

The Boks can play

What guise Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks would take was an unknown until the opening match of the new head coach’s regime and amid the chaos at Ellis Park some clear pointers emerged. The customary South African physicality was present, especially in the second half, but so too was a willingness to attack knowing that in Willie Le Roux, S’Busiso Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi they possess an electric back three. And at the very heart of their game is De Klerk, their irrepressible scrum-half.

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