South Africa bounced back to winning ways with an impressive 21-11 victory over England in their clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
Tries from Willem Alberts and Lwazi Mvovo ensured the Springboks bounced back from their shock defeat at the hands of Scotland last time out. Fly-half Morne Steyn weighed in with three penalties and a conversion but it was the under-fire visitors' superior physicality that carried them to a much-needed win.
Fullback Ben Foden grabbed a late consolation try for England to add to two penalties from fly-half Toby Flood but the hosts were guilty of too many errors and as a result a largely promising autumn campaign ended on a losing note.
The expected physical edge to the clash did not take long to surface with England loose-head Andrew Sheridan and Springboks lock Bakkies Botha involved in a skirmish but the focus was soon back on rugby with No.8 Nick Easter putting flanker Tom Croft away down the touchline. His galloping run was eventually rewarded with a penalty that Flood slotted to open the scores.
An injury to winger Chris Ashton, who came off worst when tackling Springboks skipper Victor Matfield, robbed the hosts of any momentum and the visitors muscled their way back into the game, with their pack earning a penalty at the scrum that Steyn kicked to level the scores.
Defence dominated proceedings but when Foden was tackled in the air by South Africa's Jean de Villiers England were able to take the game into the Springboks' 22. The catch and drive then had the visitors scrambling and the pressure drew a penalty that Flood had no trouble in converting.
But a wild pass under pressure from Foden immediately handed the Springboks a scrum inside the England 22, where their forwards took it in turns to pepper the line. The ball found its way to Matfield who powered forward only to be tackled by England lock Courtney Lawes, who denied him what looked to be a certain score. The Boks re-grouped at the scrum and backed themselves with a quick tap at the next penalty but England stood firm and scrambled the ball away.
The injury toll continued to rise and the most serious saw Croft leave the game holding his shoulder to be replaced by Burgersdorp-born flanker Hendre Fourie. South Africa continued to exert the greater pressure with England soon forced into yet another penalty but Steyn pushed the relatively easy chance wide of the posts. England's indiscipline continued to offer the Springboks reason for hope with an offside infringement on halfway allowing Frans Steyn the chance to level the scores but his long range effort hit the post. The Racing Metro centre was involved again moments later with his clever offload finding No.8 Pierre Spies at pace but Foden did enough to bring his giant rival to ground and snuff out the danger.
England were then dealt another injury blow with Flood forced to make way. Charlie Hodgson entered the fray and he joined his team-mates on the back foot with Boks scrum-half Ruan Pienaar finding an excellent touch inside the home side's 22. The Springbok forwards then turned the screw with the result yet another penalty that Steyn landed, but he was wayward with a drop goal attempt as the half drew to a close.
England's woes continued following the restart with centre Mike Tindall the guilty party and Steyn punished his eagerness with an excellent penalty. But England rallied well by putting pace on the ball and attacking with intent. Easter and hooker Dylan Hartley rumbled the ball forward only to be thwarted by a green wall of defenders. Winger Mark Cueto was then denied out wide before the ball was turned over and cleared.
The home side could boast a more even share possession and territory as the game elapsed but the Springboks proved to have more of a cutting edge. The visitors' near-faultless lineout provided the platform for their first try with England's resolve then tested through a series of punishing phases. The ball was worked wide through Steyn and Spies to Alberts who brushed off the tackle of Youngs to score in the corner.
An error from Spies at the restart gifted England a platform from which to launch an immediate response and both Cueto and Fourie went close, but an apparent air of panic proved their downfall. And they were made to pay for their failures by the visitors who struck again soon after to all but decide the contest. The physical and mental toll of the clash appeared to have taken its toll when Mvovo ghosted through all too easily before racing away for his first Test try. Steyn's conversion cemented their lead and left England a mountain to climb.
Forced to chase the game, England gave the ball some air but lock Tom Palmer was guilty of holding on too long with Cueto and replacement Matt Banahan poised outside him. England did have the final say with Foden picking off a CJ van der Linde pass before racing downfield to score under the posts. Tindall could only hit the post with his drop goal conversion, a moment that went a long way to summing up his side's performance.