This was arguably the greatest game ever played by a Springbok rugby team, and this article was published in the UK’s Daily Mail.
“England were subjected to legalised violence. At one point in the first-half, Mako Vunipola made a remark to the referee about ‘health and safety’ as necks were bent back-and-forth at the scrum.
They had been warned what was coming, but there was nothing they could do to stop it. By the time English bodies dropped to the floor at the final whistle, it was the biggest final defeat since 1999.
Perhaps Warren Gatland was right after all. England played their best game against the All Blacks in the semi-final – and here they were unable to rediscover last week’s cutting edge. They failed to score a single try as they ran into a South African wall reinforced by township steel.
Many of these Springboks grew up surrounded by tragedy. Siya Kolisi, their inspirational captain, turned up to his first rugby trial in his underwear because he could not afford shorts. One day, by which time English bruises and heartbreak will have eased, it could be turned into a movie.
South Africa tapped into their country’s psyche of violence and confrontation. Pain was the name of the game. Within three minutes, Kyle Sinckler was lying unconscious on the pitch with his arms locked out like a zombie. It was a motor response to force to the brainstem, after he collided with Maro Itoje as they attempted to tackle Makazole Mapimpi – another township hero.
It was the start from hell. Dan Cole was thrown in cold to face the first scrum of the game. Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira was primed and English knees buckled as their pack was driven into the turf and all-but buried alive. It became a theme and there was no way of stopping it.
With no set piece, England had no platform to attack. Their fans flew in from Heathrow with hope and expectation. Having watched their team send the All Blacks into submission, they booked over-priced last-minute flights and arrived with jet-lagged hope and expectation.
But with error after error, bruise after bruise and blow after blow, their optimism suffered a death by a thousand South African cuts. On Friday night, Owen Farrell reiterated his message of doing the basics really well. Famous last words. Be it Willie Le Roux ghosting outside George Ford, Eben Etzebeth stealing the lineout or Ben Youngs throwing a pass directly into touch, it was a litany of errors.
Eddie Jones had no answers. For the first time, he was lost for words. England’s coach was outthought by Rassie Erasmus. Those novelty plays paid off against New Zealand, but here they were ineffectual. Farrell stepped into England’s first lineout but no one could work out why.
England tried to fight fire with fire. Muscle with muscle. At times, some of the scenes more akin to Thursday night’s famous Halloween party at Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing, where thousands of locals dress up as Frankenstein or The Mummy. Hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi was knocked out, before the ogre-like 6ft9in frame of Lood de Jager walked off with his left arm hanging out of its socket. But South Africa had equally imposing replacements – called ‘the Bomb Squad’ – to inflict more pain.
At one point in the first half, England strung together 26 phases in Springbok territory but they were smashed behind the gain-line by the likes of Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen. Even Billy Vunipola was dumped onto his backside and all they had to show was a clutch of Farrell penalties.
Images appeared of South Africa’s name being etched into the trophy with three minutes left to play, but the engraver could have started the job 10 minutes earlier.
In the midst of the carnage, Cheslin Kolbe – South Africa’s very own Jason Robinson – fed off the scraps for one final try. The party had started, albeit a few thousand miles away from where everyone was expecting it.”