The dust has now settled and heart rates have returned to normal after one of the most exhilarating England Test matches in living memory saw South Africa victorious at Ellis Park.
Eddie Jones’ men raced into a 24-3 lead after 20 minutes, with tries for Harlequins’ Mike Brown, Wasps’ Elliot Daly and Saracens’ Owen Farrell.
But Sale Sharks scrum-half Faf de Klerk sparked a Springbok fightback with his try in response, which led South Africa to a half-time advantage and eventually a 42-39 win.
Plans are now afoot for the second Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday, with Worcester Warriors hooker Jack Singleton joining the England squad as cover, and remarkably Saracens’ Schalk Brits receiving a call-up to the South Africa squad, despite the 37-year-old having retired at the end of the season.
RED ROSE REACTION
England skipper Farrell is confident his side can bounce back in the three-Test series: “We got off to a good start but then a few errors crept in, and indiscipline.
“We’ll have a look at the game but we need to make sure that we stick together … and that we get the technical bits right.
Retirement? What retirement?
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) June 11, 2018
“We can’t sulk, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. The main thing for us is belief. Not just saying we believe, not just chatting about it but having a proper deep belief that we can go and win this Test series.
“From speaking to the boys and seeing how we’ve held our heads up after this game I don’t think that will be an issue.”
While Farrell’s England and Saracens team-mate Jamie George echoed his thoughts: “We just want to put things right. We were nearly very, very good, so hopefully we can string a few things together and get that 80-minute performance next week.
“You have to have big respect for what South Africa did out there, 24-3 down is a very difficult place to come back from and fair play to them they got stuck in.
“We know we’re up against a very good side, a very physical side so it’s going to be a challenge for us but one I feel we’re ready for.”
THE HIGHVELD FACTOR
Sale playmaker de Klerk produced a scintillating performance and felt that England’s decision to train at sea level instead of acclimatising to Johannesburg conditions played a part in the result.
“We knew they were based in Durban and coming from the UK the altitude was going to be a factor.
“That was our plan from the start but we didn’t have the ball in the first 20 minutes. We’ve been down by a lot of points before and for some reason we always seem to come back.
— Worcester Warriors 🏉 (@WorcsWarriors) June 11, 2018
“I think the altitude plays a part, as do the fans and the fact it is Ellis Park. England made a few errors they don’t usually make and that played into our hands.”
AVIVA PREMIERSHIP RUGBY RIVALS
While de Klerk was impressive on Saturday, another Aviva Premiership Rugby man, Wasps’ Willie le Roux also delivered a try-scoring performance and carried threat all across the back line.
Speaking ahead of the first Test, he spoke of the improvements in his game since moving to Wasps two years ago: “It made me a better player all over.
“It is not just about attacking, I think it is about kicking, catching the high ball, it’s your defence and your all over game that must be better. So it improved me a lot being over there.
“Yeah definitely (playing in England is closer to Test rugby). I think the kicking game, the defence, you must be ready for everything.
“I think in Super Rugby the guys just throw it around and play, and it looks like nice rugby. But over that side it is more controlled, set-piece, kicking, aerial battle and your defence is more organised. Every team has got a good structure so definitely.”