South Africa took a winning 2-0 series lead over England by winning a full-blooded second Test 23-12 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
After trailing by 12 points early on, the Springboks clawed to a 13-12 half-time advantage and dominated a second half in which England rarely looked like scoring.
A crucial score came on 50 minutes when the Springboks were awarded a penalty try after the England scrum crumbled under pressure close to their tryline.
It was the 300th Test win by the Springboks since they debuted in 1891 and a wonderful way for loosehead prop Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira to celebrate his 100th cap.
England suffered a fifth Test loss in a row as they once again failed to build on a promising start during which they ran the Springboks ragged.
The losing streak under coach Eddie Jones began last February in Scotland and France, Ireland and South Africa (twice) have beaten the Red Rose since.
Springboks captain and loose forward Siya Kolisi said: “It does feel good. It was really tough — but we knew what we were coming into.
“The most important thing is the crowd—thank you so much for coming out in Bloemfontein.
It was really important for us.”
Asked about a second underwhelming start in a row, Kolisi said: “I don’t know why. The coach always tells us that all he wants is intensity.
“As long as we have intensity, we can control the game. The most important thing is the character of the boys… coach Rassie Erasmus is a great leader, he keeps us calm.”
England captain and centre Owen Farrell said: “We lost momentum in that second half of the first half again.
“We will have to make sure we look back at it and see where we went wrong—but there was some big moments in that game where we were not composed enough.
“I know the 2019 World Cup is a part of the big picture. We want to learn our lessons now, start winning now. We are going to have to regroup for next week.”
Under-pressure Jones demanded a great start from his team to dent the confidence the Springboks gained from a dramatic 42-29 first Test win in Johannesburg last weekend.
And he got it as tries by wingers Mike Brown and Jonny May, one of which Farrell converted, lifted the tourists into a 12-0 lead on 13 minutes.
Brown and May went over in the opposite corners as England made a superb start, looking like a team fed up with the criticism of four consecutive Test losses since February.
As was the case last Saturday, the Springboks defence was in disarray early on, struggling whenever the Red Rose took the ball wide.
But just like last weekend, captain and flanker Siya Kolisi rallied his team and they were back in the game on 24 minutes when number eight Duane Vermeulen barged over to score.
Fly-half Handre Pollard converted and slotted a close-range penalty soon after to trim the England lead to 12-10 with 30 minutes gone in a frenetic first half.
French referee Romain Poite had his hands full keeping the match from boiling over and warned Kolisi and Farrell he would not tolerate any more foul play.
A minute before half-time, Pollard attempted a 60-metre penalty and to the delight of the Free State Stadium crowd the ball sailed over the bar for a 13-12 half-time advantage.
South Africa brought on fresh props Steven Kitshoff and Thomas du Tolt early in the second half and they soon made their presence as the home team were awarded a penalty try after a scrum.
A Pollard penalty after 67 minutes was the only other second-half score and England hopes of a dramatic comeback suffered a severe blow when loose forward Nathan Hughes was sin-binned.
Cape Town will host the dead-rubber final Test next Saturday.
© Agence France-Presse