Springboks played smart in Yokohama
England may have been nervous and out-psyched but the Springboks were magnificent in their win
In the light of subsequent events, the coin toss between the captains ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama was revealing indeed.
Owen Farrell, the England skipper, was unable to engage in eye contact with Siya Kolisi, his opposite number. At one point, the coin having been tossed, he appeared disorientated, not knowing his left from his right and struggling to explain himself.
You could argue that England’s disorientation was widespread. Courtney Lawes, their lock, gave away an early penalty for not rolling away. George Ford, their flyhalf, had the ball plucked from his grasp by Handré Pollard. Ben Youngs, normally so assured as England’s scrumhalf, passed the ball well behind Anthony Watson.
Behind is the operative word. England were always behind. They were behind on the scoreboard and behind in the one-on-one collisions. They were behind in the key statistic in number of metres gained, what is called "gainline momentum".
That they were behind was, of course, due to a faultless performance from Rassie Erasmus’s Boks. For all the fact that England were nervous and out-psyched, the Springboks were magnificent in their 32-12 win. Seldom did anything go wrong and even when it did — such as the early injuries to Lood de Jager and Bongi Mbonambi — the men in green and gold weathered the storm.
They even weathered that epic passage of attacking England play towards the end of the first half, which resulted in a meagre three points for Farrell. This allowed the Boks to go into halftime with a lead, a lead they added to and extended during a glorious evening in Yokohama.