The match is over, but the dream remains. England can win again. But this time it was South Africa’s turn. They played better in one single part of play, and that was enough to make the difference in many other areas of the game.
What did they do better? Basically, they bonded two men into one unit far better than England. Look at the rucks. Look at the mauls. look at the tackling. Their different tactic made a huge difference, so big that although England actually played better in free play, they couldn’t cope in other key areas of the game.
So what was the South African secret weapon? Bonding. Between players. Especially noticeable in the ruck where the Springbok counter rucking was very effective, this bonding showed up in any situation where in “normal” Rugby there is a one on one confrontation. Tackling was another area in which this two-to-one advantage showed itself to be very effective. This South African tactic created so many turnovers in so many phases of the game it became the springboard for many attacks.
Even where the South Africans didn’t win the ball, their bonding stopped England walking away with the ball. So, when it was carried out effectively, it became superbly attacking play; when not performed to the same effectiveness, it remained an extremely effective defensive play. A kind of win-win play.
This South African tactic created so many turnovers in so many phases of the game it became the springboard for many attacks. Everywhere else the teams were pretty well matched. The wings neutralised each other very well. The lineouts were pretty even, although the South Africans may have had the edge early on. And the scrum, one of England’s main weapons, gave nobody any particular advantage. So, the main difference was this bonding, in which both men worked as if in a three legged race, or perhaps in a rowing eight with everyone pulling together to create a machine rather than a group of men.
England played very well though. The defense took the spring right out of the Springbok stride and stopped another 36-0 drubbbing, as they had been beaten by the same team in the same tournament just 37 days ago. What a difference 37 days make.
When South Africa did penetrate into the England half they generally scored. This wasn’t the case when England penetrated South Africa’s line, but they did have one try disallowed. Shame. It would really have changed the flavour of the game. But, Matthew Tait who made the move will remember the loss and it will fuel his preparation for next time. He’s only 21. Now he’s tasted it, he’ll want more next time.
Let’s not take anything away from South Africa though. They have been the team of the year and have beaten everyone they played against. Often by huge, huge margins. They are supreme Champions who deserved the Rugby World Cup in 2007. But I’ll bet they were sweating a bit!