Try-scorer JP Pietersen’s cutting edge was just one aspect of an extremely potent South African first half attack (Image | AP)

Two tests into their summer tour South Africa, and England are on the ropes. The series already conceded, they face a whitewash following a thrilling but ultimately unsuccessful comeback in the second Test.England got off to a terrible start at Coca Cola Park, Johannesburg, after Ben Youngs’ feed into a scrum passed through the tunnel to the other side without being touched by either side, and flanker Willem Alberts collected the ball to go over for the first try of the game. Morne Steyn missed the conversion, but England were down a try after two minutes.

South Africa were dominant physically, knocking back those in an England shirt with ease, and showed superior strength at the breakdown. Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, in particular, was ferocious in defence.

After just eight minutes, thanks to superb running with ball in hand, hooker Bismarck Du Plessis showed his strength, to bulldoze his way through English tacklers to go over for South Africa’s second try, converted this time by Steyn.

England replied with a Toby Flood penalty following a Ben Foden break putting England on the attack and forcing a South African infringement. Another penalty by Steyn preceded South Africa’s third try on 18 minutes. Scrum half Francois Hougaard darted over for a try converted by Steyn for a 22-3 lead. The prospect of an England thrashing wouldn’t have seemed too unlikely at this point.

However, a response by England saw a quick tap penalty by Youngs, who gave the ball to Chris Ashton, who drew the South African defender and shipped the ball to Flood in support. Spinning a challenge, he touched down for England’s first try. Flood converted his own try to make it 22-10.

Ben Foden was involved in England’s fightback but was partially at fault for the sizeable half time deficit (Image | Getty)

A Morne Steyn drop goal made it 25-10, and England were lucky not to be put further behind after J.P. Pietersen fumbled with the try line at his mercy and the two Steyns missing chances at goal.

After the break, Steyn added another penalty to his tally, before Ben Youngs collected a South African overthrow at the back of the line out to go over for England. Flood converting. Youngs crossed the line again for England after a great driving maul by England reached the Springbok line. Flood converted again, then kicked over a penalty for England to make it 31-27.

It was at this point that South Africa made changes, bringing on replacements and this led to disorganisation within the Springboks who encountered England pressure. Chris Robshaw as always, led by example, however, a loose Joseph kick found its way to the classy Pietersen who’s run set up a good position for South Africa who recycle well and the ball found its way out to Pietersen to go over to finish the move that he began his own half and to ultimate secure a South African victory and therefore winning the series 2-0.

England will take heart from their second half performance, but will rue the terrible start of the first half. No doubt the young players such as Joe Marler and Joseph will have learned a hell of a lot in this test match and will be stronger for the experience as Lancaster continues England’s development. A tough third test beckons for England but they will want to prevent South Africa from earning a 3-0 series whitewash over them.

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