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How did England go from such a dominant performance against the reigning and dethroned world champions, to coming so brutally unstuck against the new anointed kings of the globe?
Eddie Jones didn’t have the answer following England’s humbling 32-12 defeat against South Africa, a scoreline that while it flattered the Springboks due to two late tries, actually reflected the dominance that they enjoyed in a one-sided forward battle.
One key ingredient must be recognised first though: South Africa were sublime. Their power game was there for all to see, but the final quarter
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England got nowhere near the level that they reached against New Zealand in the semi-finals, and perhaps that was the ultimate problem: that their World Cup final came one week too early? Or perhaps it was the loss of Kyle Sinckler, knocked out of the game in an accidental yet sickening collision with teammate Mare Itoje in just the third minute that left Dan Cole facing 77 minutes against an unstoppable Tendai Mtawarira and then a fresh Steven Kitschoff. It could have been that all the talk of England being heavy favourites, South Africa playing ‘anti-rugby’ and talk of a bus parade through the streets of London on Tuesday gave Rassie Erasmus and his side all the fuel needed to light the internal fire.
But while the root of the issue will never be known, it took seconds to work out that something just wasn’t right. England were delayed in arriving at the International Stadium Yokohama for the second week running, though this time it was traffic to blame after last week’s weather problems. Jones dismissed the idea that this affected them, but with half an hour to go until kick-off, England had yet to fully start their warm-up as players stretched among themselves.
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