JOHANNESBURG (AFP) –
South Africa survived a brave second-half comeback from England at Ellis Park Saturday to triumph 36-27 and take a winning 2-0 lead in the three-Test series.
The Springboks dominated the first half to open a 25-10 half-time advantage only to see their lead trimmed to four points before right wing JP Pietersen scored a late match-sealing try and a ninth consecutive win over their rivals.
Victory for South Africa completed a great day for the southern hemisphere giants with New Zealand and Australia also winning to wrap up series against Ireland and Wales respectively.
World Cup winner Pietersen was a deserved man of the match as his run from deep in his half started a move that ended when he dived over far out for a try that gave the Springboks a nine-point cushion with seven minutes left.
A late chance for England to close the gap was squandered when they threw too long at a line-out close the Springbok try-line and the ball was cleared to the collective relief of most in a 65,000 crowd.
“I think we gave them some easy tries at one stage,” said Springboks captain and outside centre Jean de Villiers. “We played some great rugby in the first half, but credit must go to England for coming back and never giving up.”
England skipper and flank Chris Robshaw said: “It’s very disappointing as we started quite poorly and the Springboks came out all guns blazing and did not give us a second chance. Throughout the game we were not quite good enough.”
A much improved showing at the breakdown and superb ball retention enabled the Springboks to dominate the first half in cold, clear conditions and turn over with a 15-point advantage.
The green and gold were ahead within three minutes as an England put-in to a scrum rolled through the tunnel and out the other side for flank Willem Alberts to snatch the ball and race over unopposed.
It was all South Africa in the early stages and they scored another try on eight minutes when the sheer strength of hooker Bismarck Du Plessis got him across the line between the posts and fly-half Morne Steyn converted.
England reduced arrears the first time they entered Springbok territory with a break from full-back Ben Foden triggering pressure that led to a penalty which fly-half Toby Flood kicked.
A Morne Steyn penalty restored a 12-point lead for South Africa and the rampant hosts claimed a third try at the end of the first quarter when scrum-half Francois Hougaard found space to nip over.
Morne Steyn converted to give his team a 22-3 lead only for England to hit back when the Springboks reacted slowly to a tap penalty from scrum-half Ben Youngs and Flood raced over and converted his try.
There was mixed luck for the Steyns in the closing stages of the half with Morne dropping a goal and missing a penalty and inside centre Francois going just left of the post with a 60-metre penalty attempt.
England saw much more of the ball in the second half and cut the deficit to seven points with 18 minutes left thanks to a couple of tries from Youngs that Flood converted while Morne Steyn kicked two penalties.
South Africa gifted the first try to the Red Roses by overthrowing at a line-out near their line and Youngs grabbed the ball and went over for a score that took an age to be confirmed by the television match official.
The other try required no confirmation as England pressure against tiring opponents took them close to the try-line and when replacement prop Alex Corbisiero was halted, Youngs darted in to dot down and Flood converted.
A gap that was once was 19 points closed to just four on 65 minutes when Flood succeeded with his first penalty shot of the encounter and the Springboks were clinging to a 31-27 lead.
Rattled South Africa were under constant pressure and it took some magic from Pietersen to calm nerves as he began in his own half a move that culminated in him diving over.