By Ali Stokes
England have avoided a series whitewash in South Africa this summer with a hard-fought victory in the soon-to-be-demolished Newlands Stadium in Cape Town.
In what was otherwise a glorified slip and slide, the Cape Town turf prospered England’s first win since February earlier this year, having lost to Scotland, France, Ireland, the Barbarians and the Springboks, twice. Head Coach Eddie Jones will have been relieved to avoid a record-equalling losing streak, claiming a 25-10 victory earlier today in the third and final game of the series.
A singular, 72nd minute Jonny May try was all that stood between Owen Farrell's monopolisation of England's scoreboard through six penalties. The newly-anointed captain capitalised on the Springboks indiscipline, opting to kick for the sticks instead of the corners in a far more assured performance from his previous two games.
In a reverse of the previous two Tests, England managed to keep their penalty count to just six, with South Africa conceding the highest number of penalties (14) from a single game this series.
After much talk heading into this weekend's season finale, star fly-half Danny Cipriani struggled to stamp his usual brand of attacking rugby on today’s game, with the wet weather forcing England into a far more pragmatic game plan when compared to their previous two attempts.
Springbok fly-half Elton Jantjies Test return will not have gone as the Lions standoff could have first envisaged. The 27-year-old conceded four turnovers and multiple handling errors, costing his side momentum throughout his 57-minute appearance. In what was likely his last chance of redeeming a Test career under new coach Rassie Erasmus, Jantjies may well struggle to find himself in the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup squad after today’s showing.
In contrast, Chris Robshaw and Maro Itoje offered much-improved performances earlier today after questionable form for England during some of their recent Test appearances. Harlequins loosehead Joe Marler also offered up a promising return to the starting XV, playing arguably one of the most influential roles in England's victory.
The 27-year-old may have done enough to stave off his challengers for England's second loosehead spot behind Mako Vunipola, absent today after attending the birth of his son earlier this week.
England head into the summer break with a victory to their backs, but with the knowledge that there is plenty of work to be done. Jones’ charges must build upon their improved discipline, pressure and cool-headedness displayed today, with the prospect of meeting the Springboks for the fifth time in 12 months this November in addition to a much-anticipated clash with the All Blacks and a resurgent Wallabies side.
Look out for the latest analysis of England's victory in the coming days.