HEAD COACH Eddie Jones celebrated Danny Cipriani’s killer instinct as England’s fly-half engineered the critical moment in Saturday’s win over South Africa.
The series had already been surrendered, but a comprehensive win in the third and final Test at Newlands finally brought an end to the five-Test losing run that began in the Six Nations.
Owen Farrell was outstanding as he kicked 20 points, but it was Cipriani’s exquisite chip into the corner for Jonny May to score that swept the match beyond the Springboks’ reach.
Cipriani, making his first Test start for a decade, was a peripheral figure until he set up May.
“I said before the game we might not have many opportunities and that Danny would possibly be good enough to take the opportunity we had and he did that,” said Jones.
“There was one opportunity for us to score a try. It was a beautifully weighted kick and we scored.”
Jones admitted that his enjoyment of England emerging from their worst barren spell since 2016 would only be brief.
“After every Test you either feel good or you feel bad. That lasts for about three or four hours, then you’re back on the treadmill again,” he said.
“I feel better than I did the first two weeks, but it’s all on again. We’d like to play South Africa next week because we’re coming to a peak now, so we’re trying to arrange a game at Twickenham.
“I thought it was a great series of rugby. For the health of Test rugby, it was fantastic. The South African side are revitalised. They deserved to win the series, but there were only small margins in it.”
A number of England players emerged with credit from the climax to the season, among them May, Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler.
The pack rediscovered their might after a passive first two Tests and in another about-turn they were on the right side of a penalty count that read 14-6.
“We just handled the big moments better,” said Jones.
“If you look back at the last two Tests, in both we put ourselves in a position to win the games, but when the pressure or the scoreboard has changed we haven’t handled those situations well.
“We kept our composure and focused on the next play. There was great leadership by the players out there and much better composure.
“Discipline is a matter of trusting your team-mates and trusting the system, not trying to solve everything by yourself. The team had been over-eager to play well.”
South Africa chief Rassie Erasmus lamented the first loss of his reign. “We learned a lot in this game, but it’s nicer to learn while you’re winning and not while you’re losing,” he said.
Farrell marked his first win as captain by kicking six penalties.
The series had already been decided following defeats in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, but in Cape Town England salvaged some pride with a gutsy display that grew in purpose.
What started as an ugly spectacle scarred by repeated mistakes eventually developed into a tense climax to the tour that produced two eye-catching moments for both teams, Jess Kriel’s try for the hosts cancelled out by the scorching effort from May.
The biggest winning margin of the series was primarily about the boot of Farrell, who finished with a 20-point haul, and the renewal of English forward might after passive performances in the first two Tests.
It is a win that relieves the pressure on Jones, who can enter the autumn series with renewed conviction.
The torrential downpour that had swept across Cape Town in the hours before the match stopped in time for kick-off, but enough rain had already fallen to make the pitch treacherous.
Farrell drew first blood through a penalty as the teams blundered their way through a low-quality first half.
A 6-0 lead opened up before Elton Jantjies and Farrell exchanged penalties then prop Steven Kitshoff bulldozed through, providing quick ball for Warrick Gelant to direct a grubber for Kriel to touch down.
The boot of Farrell continued to frustrate South Africa, however, as two further penalties hit their mark.
The hammer blow came in the 73rd minute when Cipriani directed the ball into the corner complete with backspin for May to pounce, sweeping the result beyond doubt.
South Africa: Gelant, Nkosi, J. Kriel, Esterhuizen, Dyantyi, Jantjies, de Klerk, Mtawarira, Ralepelle, Malherbe, Snyman, Mostert, Kolisi, P. du Toit, Vermeulen. Replacements: Brits, Kitshoff, T du Toit, du Preez, Notshe, Papier, Pollard, le Roux.
England: Daly, May, Schonert, Farrell, Brown, Cipriani, Youngs, Marler, George, Sinckler, Launchbury, Itoje, Robshaw, Curry, Hughes. Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Hepburn, Williams, Hill, Wilson, Simmonds, Spencer, Solomona.
Referee: G Jackson (New Zealand).