England’s tour to South Africa ended in a 2-1 series defeat after Saturday’s 25-10 victory in Newlands salvaged some pride at the final hurdle.
Here Press Association examines fives things learnt from the tour.
The most emphatic win of the series has relieved the pressure that had built on Jones on the back of five successive defeats – a run that provoked the first calls for him to be sacked. It means the five months between now and the autumn series will not be so grim, although should the slide resume in November the backing he currently has from Twickenham could evaporate with the World Cup less than a year away.
A failed tour has not been without its redeeming features, chief among them the emergence of Tom Curry as a genuine prospect at openside. England have discovered a classic foraging seven who excels at the breakdown and if he avoids injury, he is the favourite to fill the position at the World Cup. He turned 20 on this tour and the challenge facing his club Sale and the Red Rose management is to add some power to his game in time for Japan 2019.
Danny Cipriani’s first Test start for a decade arrived amid much fanfare and for 72 minutes the wet conditions conspired against England’s most dangerous attacking fly-half. But then his moment came, a perfectly-weighted chip into the corner for Jonny May to touch down delivering the pivotal moment of the match. His fly-half rivalry with George Ford will run into the autumn but as it stands Cipriani does not appear the most popular figure – replays appear to show captain Owen Farrell turn away in emphatic disapproval when Cipriani launched his kick.
If Jones was hoping to add to his leadership density, he instead uncovered a deficit at the top. Farrell is the heartbeat of England whose warrior instinct makes him the first name on the teamsheet, but on the evidence of the three matches in South Africa he is not the most natural fit as captain. Jones has been at pains to state that great skippers are made and not born, but the confrontational manner that underpins his steel as a player does not lend itself to communicating with referees, while the inertia that followed when South Africa took charge of the first and second Tests ultimately rests on his shoulders.
Aside from the setback in the final Test – a performance that boss Rassie Erasmus described as “terrible” – the series was a resounding success for South Africa. The opener at Ellis Park delivered a seismic moment in the nation’s history when Siya Kolisi became the nation’s first black Test captain. The fielding of an all-black front row and Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira making his 100th Test appearance – all achieved while delivering results on the pitch – is further evidence that transformation is working.