South Africa returned to winning ways with a 31-28 victory over England in a thrilling rugby Test at a rainswept Twickenham on Saturday.
England, 20-6 down early in the second half, capitalised on the sin-binning of Victor Matfield to score 14 points while the veteran lock was off the field as forwards David Wilson and Ben Morgan rumbled over for converted tries to tie the match at 20-20.
But South Africa, still a man down, regained their composure to score a try through man-of-the-match Schalk Burger, while impressive five-eighth Pat Lambie kicked 16 points.
“Conditions were tricky to begin with, but at 20-6 up we felt we had the job 75 per cent done,” Burger told Sky Sports.
“We needed to keep composure then sadly we got a yellow card and we were on the back foot,” the openside flanker added.
“But, we huddled together and said, ‘we’ve been here before’ and that’s what saw us through.”
This was England’s second agonising three-point loss in as many weeks following their 24-21 defeat by world champions New Zealand but they could have few complaints.
England captain Chris Robshaw lamented how his side were never in front, saying: “We were a little bit reactive today.
“We allowed them to get ahead of us and then we were playing catch-up,” the flanker explained.
Fresh from their shock tour-opening 29-15 defeat by Ireland in Dublin, the Springboks made it 12 games unbeaten against England as more doubts were raised about the ability of the 2015 World Cup hosts to challenge for the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Defeat was England’s fifth in a row – albeit four were against the All Blacks – and their worst run of results since they suffered seven successive losses in 2006.
It also meant that in 13 matches under coach Stuart Lancaster against the southern hemisphere giants of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, England had won just two Tests.
England’s scrum and line-out again held up well but they once more suffered from poor decision-making, loose kicking and needless knock-ons.
South Africa responded to their Dublin debacle by making five changes with England making just one, injury-enforced, switch as Anthony Watson replaced Bath teammate Semesa Rokoduguni on the wing.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, significantly, dropped halves Francois Hougaard and Handre Pollard, their places taken by Cobus Reinach and Lambie respectively.