South Africa produced another fightback to wrap up the series with a Test to spare after outmuscling England to win 23-12 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Springboks rallied from 24-3 down to win a thrilling first Test 42-39 at Ellis Park and recovered from another blistering England start to come out on top again a week later in Tendai Mtawarira’s 100th appearance for his country.
Early tries from Mike Brown and Jonny May put Eddie Jones’ side 12-0 up, but they were unable to prevent a fifth consecutive Test defeat as their bid for a first series victory in South Africa was ended at a raucous Toyota Stadium.
The Springboks’ pack overpowered England, Duane Vermeulen going over and Handre Pollard scoring eight points from the tee as they edged into a 13-12 half-time lead.
Indisciplined England ran out of steam at altitude, conceding a penalty try early in the second half and Pollard took his tally with the boot to 11 to seal the series for Rassie Erasmus’ men and pile the pressure on Jones.
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England weathered an early Springboks storm and were rewarded when Brown was left with a simple finish after sharp passes from Owen Farrell and May followed a strong run up the middle by Billy Vunipola, the skipper converting expertly.
The Boks were caught out again by the pace and slick handling of England just three minutes later, May evading Siya Kolisi as he darted away to go over on the right flank following a clever improvised pass from the alert Brown to Elliot Day.
South Africa, just as they did seven days ago, hit back again with vigour, Vermeulen powering over on the back of a barnstorming run from captain Mtawarira and Pollard on target with a penalty after adding the extras.
Mako Vunipola looked fortunate to escape with a warning for slapping Steph du Toit in a fiery first half which ended with the Springboks leading courtesy of a mammoth Pollard penalty from inside his own half.
England lost Billy Vunipola to injury at the interval and they conceded a penalty try when a scrum collapsed under immense pressure from the Springboks’ pumped-up pack.
Brad Shields had a try chalked off when he lost control attempting to ground the ball and South Africa showed heroic defence to stop a driving maul as England looked far more threatening.
Another Pollard penalty gave the hosts an 11-point advantage 13 minutes from time and Nathan Hughes was yellow-carded for knocking the ball out of Faf de Klerk’s hands at a ruck as South Africa easily saw out a deserved victory.
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