Saturday, November 22, 2008

'Boks taught us a lesson'

There's always time for a gloat with a win over the Poms. Well done, manne.


London - England manager Martin Johnson admitted his team had been given "a lesson" after a crushing 42-6 defeat by world champions South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 36-point losing margin was the worst the Red Rose had ever suffered on home soil since their first Test in England in 1872.

And the gap was the same as South Africa achieved in beating England 36-0 in a World Cup pool match in France last year before going on to defeat them 15-6 in the final.

But while the World Cup final didn't feature a single try, this match saw the Springboks score five through outside-half Ruan Pienaar, openside flanker Danie Rossouw, outside centre Adrian Jacobs, replacement back Jaque Fourie and star wing Bryan Habana.

Pienaar also landed three penalties and three conversions for a total match haul of 20 points with South Africa's other score coming from a conversion by Francois Steyn.

All England had to show for their efforts were two first-half penalties from Danny Cipriani.

"They gave us a lesson in certain areas of the game, especially finishing," said Johnson.

"The players are pretty desolate in there. A defeat like at home that is hard to take," England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain added.

Johnson, reflecting on South Africa's ruthless display, said: "We started pretty well but then they scored their first try when we'd been on the attack in their 22.

"They defended very well. They are a very good team. They've got some very powerful guys and when they got in our half they didn't mess around. And their kicking game was better than ours."

However, Johnson did see some cause for optimism although he was the first to admit his words would have a "hollow" ring.

"We created opportunities today but just didn't take them," he said of a match where the Springboks were 20-6 up at the break

"I thought we were still in the game at half-time. But we didn't turn pressure and opportunities into points. We had some gilt-edged chances but they defended very well.

"Territory-wise we were fine. We had enough of the game."

South Africa went behind as early as the first minute and captain John Smit admitted: "We couldn't have had a worse start yet no-one flinched.

"Coming out of the changing room I had the feeling that something big was about to happen.

"To come here and do something like that is pretty special.

"Guys like Bakkies (Botha) and Victor (Matfield) did not have a Twickenham victory on their CVs and that was what we talked about before the game. It made them even hungrier," the hooker added after South Africa's last Test of 2008.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said: "We were brilliant with the ball in hand and we were brilliant without the ball."

Johnson's first two Tests in charge against major opposition - his first ended in a 39-13 win over the Pacific Islanders - have seen England well-beaten by both Australia, 28-14 winners at Twickenham last week, and now South Africa.

Things don't get any easier with New Zealand, the Tri-Nations champions, arriving at Twickenham next Saturday.

"This is our best team. We don't have any 50-cappers coming over the hill," said Johnson.

"It will be a difficult week. We're going to be up against arguably the best team in the world but this is when you will see the character of the players and the management." And Johnson said he would be under the spotlight as much as anyone else. "I'm in charge of it. It ends with me. Full stop."

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