Coach Eddie Jones says that England failed to match South Africa in the set-piece and aerial battles after the world champions thumped the Roses in London on Saturday.
Tries from Kurt-Lee Arendse and Eben Etzebeth either side of half time helped the Boks to a first victory over England at Twickenham in eight years, with Damian Willemse landing two drop goals and Faf de Klerk kicking 11 points in a 27-13 win for SA.
Defeat meant England had lost six out of 12 Tests in the calendar year, their worst run since 2008. Nevertheless, Jones insisted England could still have a “really good go” at next year’s World Cup.
“It’s a bit of a watershed game for us,” Jones told reporters post match. “We came into this game with high expectations of how we wanted to play on the back of New Zealand and Japan and you know if you look at the first three games we have dominated territory and possession and this game, South Africa were a bit too tough for us in the air, a bit too tough for us at the set-piece so I know exactly where we have got to improve.
“We lost the air, lost the scrum battle. When you play against a team as uncompromising as South Africa and you lose both of those key contests, it’s hard to get in the game.
“I can’t fault the effort of our team. We went in there with a good design on how we wanted to play. When you lose those two key contests it’s hard to turn the game around, it’s hard to find a way into the game.”
“We don’t want to get beat by a big score to South Africa and don’t want to have the worst record since 2008 so it is a problem but I accept full responsibility for that.”
The Australian added: “Obviously on results we are not happy but I feel like we are building a really good base to have a really good go at the World Cup, a really good go.”
An error-strewn England display was exemplified by the way usually reliable captain Owen Farrell missed two routine penalties early on.
“We weren’t accurate enough in some bits and that was across the board,” said Farrell. “Obviously I played a role in that with the two missed easy kicks early on, so, yeah, we’re hurting.”
England, who will have to nurse this defeat until they begin their 2023 Six Nations at home to Scotland in February, saw Will Stuart (elbow), Marcus Smith (ankle) and Kyle Sinckler (hip) forced off in another bruising encounter with the Boks.
“It was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right,” Jones said.
© Agence France-Presse