Youngs pinpoints where it went wrong for England against Boks
SPOTLIGHT: Though South Africa had their share of tough matches on their way to winning the World Cup, winning all three knockout contests by a solitary point, they looked to be in the most perilous position against England in the semifinal.
While Jacques Nienaber’s side led from the third minute onwards in the final against the All Blacks, they only led for the final two minutes against England the week before in a match in which they were trailing 6-15 in the final quarter.
It was only in the final ten minutes that they gained any kind of ascendency at the Stade de France following RG Snyman’s try on 69 minutes.
That was obviously the crucial phase of the match though, and it has left England ruing where they went wrong and what they could have done differently.
One area the Boks were comfortably dominating in the final quarter was the scrum – thanks to Ox Nche and Vincent Koch.
England faced more scrums in that phase of the match.
Recently speaking to the The Rugby Pod scrumhalf Ben Youngs voiced the side’s regret that they were not able to tweak their tactics to lower the number of scrums, or at least change where they were taking place on the field.
Youngs, who retired from Test rugby as England’s most capped player, was not part of the matchday squad against the Springboks, but explained how Steve Borthwick’s side were not able to execute the required tactical change.
“So the South Africa game I really thought, with ten minutes to go until RG Snyman scored, I really thought we’re going to do this, we’re exactly where we need to be,” the 127-cap England international said.
“But when he scored, you’re thinking ‘right, all the momentum is with South Africa, we don’t want set pieces.’ I think tactically up to that point we had been brilliant in terms of going to contestable kicks.
“But we had to change.
“We should have gone to kick it long, stay away from contests, because as soon as you go to contests it only takes one knock-on and then scrum.
“Boot it as long as you can, let them mark it, that’s fine, they can have a scrum pen in their own 22. But as soon as we started going to contestables on the halfway, landing it on half way, that is when the message was coming on but we weren’t able to adapt.
“That was the bit where if we just made that little change, maybe. I’m not saying we would have done it, they are a phenomenal team.
“It was a tough one to take that one.”
The final few minutes of the match played out exactly how England would not have wanted it to, with Handre Pollard kicking a penalty from halfway following a scrum penalty. That scrum came from a knock on by Freddie Steward (maybe the only mistake he make in a sensational performance) while chasing a short kick. Had the kick gone longer, the result may have been different.