While Springbok flyhalf Butch James outclassed Charlie Hodgson, replacement Andy Goodeâ€™s second half performance maintained the Pomsâ€™ proud record at Twickenham.
Hodgson was at the forefront of an uninspirational home effort before he was stretchered off at the end of the first half. Despite being a man who has enjoyed much success against South Africa in the past, Hodgson looked uncomfortable with England’s tactics of keeping the ball in hand.
With the wealth of possession the hosts had in the first half, they were able to achieve very little in terms of accumulating points. The England No 10 kicked only four times, passing a total of sixteen balls that came his way. However, the Poms could make no inroads into the solid Bok defence, and Hodgsonâ€™s attempts to play the ball close to the advantage line proved ineffective to say the least.
His kicking game was arhythmic, the touch kicking being especially woeful. Any ball that crossed the touchline was duly greeted with an ironic cheer from the capacity crowd, who had begun to grow wary of the home side’s errors. If he had not cried off with injury, the England management would surely have replaced him in the second half.
Andy Goode gave the England team some direction and purpose; his superior handling skills standing out in a team where the standards were never particularly high.
While Goode revived English hopes, replacement flyhalf Andre Pretorius had the reverse effect on the South Africans. His decision making was abysmal, the lowlight being when he booted the ball downfield aimlessly with only minutes to spare. The extraction of James due to injury will be considered a major contributing factor to why the hoodoo of Twickenham still lives on.
From the outset, it seemed like James could do no wrong. The first hit he made on Josh Lewsey was a sign of the impact he would have on this match. While he did not enjoy as much possession as Hodgson in the first half, he was able to create far more.
His try was a tribute to his superb support play, which is a facet of the Boks’ game that defintely needs more attention. His kicking and option taking was flawless; the decision to drop the ball onto the boot and set up Akona Ndungane for an easy run in being a great example of his all-round display.
The Bok coaching staff will be hoping that his knee injury is not too serious, as they will definitely need him for the second Test in a week’s time. Charlie Hodgson is also being treated for his own ailment, and the extent of injury is still to be determined as well, but the England management would do well to keep Goode at 10 based on this match-winning effort.
By Jon Cardinelli, in London