Andre Pretorius spearheaded a famous fightback that broke the Twickenham spell and saw the Springboks beat England 25-14.
Pretorius scored 20 points in all, nailing four drop goals to sink a battered England side who never looked like winning this encounter. His flawless boot also initiated a Springbok comeback after they were down 14-3 in the first half. Although Juan Smith was named as the official man of the match, Pretorius’ contribution was invaluable and a reason why the Boks won’t go home empty handed after losing to Ireland and England in previous weeks. This was his last chance to prove that he has the head and the skills to succeed in northern hemisphere conditions. If this was to be a final test, he passed with flying colours.
The game could hardly be described as a classic, but what matters is that the nine-year drought has finally ended, and the Boks end their indifferent 2006 Test season on a high. The Boks played with a lot more structure which is more than could be said for the hosts, whose performance could best be articulated as impotent.
England flyhalf Andy Goode provided a great start, kicking two unanswered penalties. Andre Pretorius answered back with the first of his four drop goals to keep South Africa in touch, but the home team rode their luck in a scrappy first half, Mark Cueto’s try and Goode’s subsequent conversion establishing a healthy 14-3 lead.
The English supporters were a lot more audible than last week, and the home team too seemed to possess a confidence that undoubtedly came with their previous victory. But the backline still looked devoid of ideas and were well marshalled by the strong Bok defence. England also failed to translate many of their chances into points. Martin Corry broke away after picking up the spoils of an unsuccessful kick and regather by Francois Steyn, but Jean de Villiers managed to get a hand between Corry and his support and thus snuff out the impending five-pointer.
De Villiers himself was denied a try late in the half when he was held up just before the half-time siren. Up to this point, the Boks had done well to chip away at the host’s 14-3 lead, with Pretorius in top goal-kicking form. Pretorius nailed his first drop goal after 16 minutes, and grabbed another after 47. His penalty from 45m out could also be seen as the turning point in the game, as with that kick came the significant shift in momentum.
With De Villiers try being disallowed, it appeared as if the Boks would head down the tunnel at 14-9. But The green and gold attack finally came good, with CJ van der Linde barging his way through three tackles to claim a telling try. Pretorius kicked another beauty to give the visitors the lead and the difference in the Boks attitude was now well apparent.
England placed themselves under pressure due to some shocking kicking out of hand. In the second period they gave away possession and allowed the Boks to build on their incredible fightback in the first half. At this stage, they looked like crumbling, but the strong chants of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in the Twickenham stands lent new vigour to tired legs. Unfortunately for them, their courage could not be aligned with their attacking ability, as the Boks managed to keep out wave after wave of English assault.
South Africa’s defence has improved immensely since the first shocker against Ireland. The midfield was solid, and the back row combination of Kabamba Floors, Juan Smith and Danie Rossouw proved effective both on defence and attack. The latter two players gained a lot of metres with ball in hand and often required more than one English defender to be brought to ground.
While the Boks will no doubt take heart from this win, their only one on tour, they should never have lost to this English team. The world champions are in disarray, and wholesale changes are on the cards before they begin their Six Nations campaign in February.
By Jon Cardinelli, in London