England & South Africa Player Ratings – 1st Test

15. Mike Brown – 6

Whether he was injured with Jean de Villiers rampaging towards him is unclear, but the fact is Brown’s failed tackle attempt let the Springbok captain through for what was the winning try. That being said, he coped with the numerous high balls well.

14. Chris Ashton – 6

Another game where there was no questioning Ashton’s hunger but he failed to produce. Bryan Habana outshone down his wing. In big games such as these, England need him more than ever.

13. Manu Tuilagi – 7

His flattening by de Villiers aside, Tuilagi was on fine form, boshing his way through tacklers and putting in an excellent try-saving tackle on Spies.

12. Brad Barritt – 5

Defensively sharp but England need more than just a wall at inside centre. Barritt’s eye injury offers Stuart Lancaster the opportunity to experiment because they will not defeat the leading Southern Hemisphere nations by defence alone, as Saturday proved.

11. Ben Foden – 7

A very encouraging first cap on the wing. Was rarely troubled by JP Pietersen and made some crucial catches, whilst also finishing superbly in the corner with time almost up. Expected back at 15 for the 2nd Test with Brown injured.

10. Owen Farrell – 5

Same argument as Rhys Priestland in that whilst young and still developing, Farrell is unable to fully control matches just yet. Some horrible passes soured what was a strong kicking performance.

9. Ben Youngs – 5

Box kicked everything on offer at the start before electing to bring his backs into the game more. What England would have given for him to mimic Francois Hougaard’s lead with snipes around the fringes.

1. Joe Marler – 5

Frenetic start but disappeared as the game went on due to adjusting to the pace. Not terrible by any means but could have been better.

2. Dylan Hartley – 6

Rough afternoon against the great Bismarck but stood up and was counted. From the noises he’s been making since the final whistle he sounds incredibly eager for revenge in Joburg. Comfortably England’s best hooker.

3. Dan Cole – 6

Much like Hartley, not the easiest afternoon. Matched the Beast but England needed more from him in the loose going forward. Truth is he was often found constantly trying to thwart the Boks in defence.

4. Mouritz Botha – 6

The red scrum cap wasn’t it’s typical blur of activity around the park but the lineout ran well.

5. Geoff Parling – 5

Knocked back too often when on the charge. Lineout operated efficiently under his guidance but Kruger got to him.

6. Tom Johnson – 6

Wonderful first half an hour when he appeared unstoppable; huge tackles and the odd break making him catch the eye. But faded away much like Marler as the game went on, sucked in to making numerous tackles. Positive though.

7. Chris Robshaw – 7

A strong captain’s performance where Robshaw forced turnovers at the breakdown and led from the front. Arguably England’s MVP.

8. Ben Morgan – 5

One strong burst into the South African 22 reminded us what he can do, but where was he the rest of the time? Has to deliver consistently over 80 minutes, or at least the 60 he played in Durban.


Jonathan Joseph made such a promising impact in only three minutes that the calls have been ringing out for his inclusion to start in the 2nd Test. Barritt’s injury could make this happen, or Toby Flood could fill in with Farrell at 12, a combination that led to Foden’s try at the death in Durban. Flood and Joseph aside, there was little to shout about from the bench.

South Africa:

15. Zane Kirchner – 5, 14. JP Pietersen – 6, 13. Jean de Villiers – 9, 12. Frans Steyn – 7, 11. Bryan Habana – 8, 10. Morné Steyn – 7 , 9. Francois Hougaard – 7; 1. Tendai Mtawarira – 6, 2. Bismarck du Plessis – 8, 3. Jannie du Plessis – 7, 4. Eben Etzebeth – 6, 5. Juandré Kruger – 7, 6. Marcell Coetzee – 7, 7. Willem Alberts – 9, 8. Pierre Spies – 6

A mixed bag for the Boks, but de Villiers, Habana and Alberts were all exceptional. In fact, Alberts’ man of the match performance was a strong example of how good he can be on his day, with his form often rather inconsistent. Hougaard’s pace caused havoc in that crucial third quarter, whilst the trio of debutants worked well in the lineout, Coetzee in particular impressive.

by Ben Coles

19 thoughts on “England & South Africa Player Ratings – 1st Test

  1. I thought Farrell’s kicking out hand was fairly ordinary, so presume you are referring to goal-kicking.

    I’d mark Foden and Ashton down for not chasing up kicks – Habana and Pietersen showed how a kick-chase should be done, always putting England on the back foot, rather than allowing them plenty of time to react.

    Mostly fair ratings otherwise, although Botha and Parling might deserve an extra mark for a flawless England lineout and reasonable presence in the loose.

    1. That’s right – Walsh had a word with him.

      It wasn’t Marler, who I thought had a pretty good debut – held his own at the scrum and put the tackles in where needed, made one good steal as well

      Probably unfair to expect him to replicate his Quins form in the loose when its his international debut – and against the Springboks no less

      Would personally give Farrell and Youngs no more than a 4 each. Farrell seemed confused about what he should be doing. Youngs was slow, did not represent a threat around the fringes and his kicking was poor.

      For me, next week’s team should be

      Parling – needs to show more round the field though or he’ll end up being Borthwick mark II
      Haskell – I don’t think he has the nous for 8 but Morgan does not look properly fit and the next game will be at altitude. Morgan to come on after 65 mins
      Care – the form SH in England
      Flood – may be more of a defensive liability but need to get the backs moving
      Tuilagi – use him on the crash ball or just as a threatening dummy runner, a la Jamie Roberts
      Joseph – has the speed to utilise gaps caused by Tuilagi
      Monye? Strettle? Wade? – really at a loss here.

      1. Monye over Strettle and Wade vs the Boks all the time. He has more strength and weight than Strettle and Wade do, and that is crucial against the Boks’ tactics.

  2. I thought – and you will not hear me say this many times – Marler had a good game. He was disrupting (legally), often the man there over the ball. I’d have been marking him and Chris Robshaw equally. The pack was over eager at times, but that often comes from the number 8.

    I think Ben Youngs’ box kicking would have been better were it chased, I was disappointed by kick chases generally in the match. He did show much more of his ability to snipe around the fringes though and I’d still argue he’s a lot more useful than Dickson.

    Second rows I thought played admirably. There or thereabouts in the lose, physical and stealing line out ball. Parling was in ESPN’s team of the weekend. As was Tom Johnson who had a brilliant first cap.

    1. The one reason for bringing in Strettle if fit would be to chase kick, as he does it week in week out for Sarries.

  3. 9 for de Villiers! Really? The fact Manu flattened him twice when he was trying to tackle him would limit him to a 7 or 8 in my book.

  4. I think what this matched shows is that the Youngs and Farrell combo does not work. Care and Flood doesn’t work too well either. So you’ve either got to start with Dickson and Farrell, Youngs and Flood, or stick Care in with Farrell and see how they fair. With Brown injured it seems likely that Foden will be moved back to FB, but we do have other full backs on the tour. Abendanon has been called in and I’m sure Goode is out there as well. I would give one of them a chance and keep Foden on the wing. Have another winger on the bench for impact, along with either Flood or Farrell, depending on who starts. Personally I would leave Youngs out for the next game, and stick Care in with Disckon on the bench.

  5. Bit harsh on Parling for a 100% lineout and a steal. Ball carrying in the forwards was an issue in general, Parling made 17 of the the total 25 metres made by our tight 5 so I don’t think he was the least effective of the tight 5. With Morgan driving the early engagement I would give Marler a 6 as well.

    Other than Alberts the Bok pack aren’t actually bigger than us, we were the bigger pack. Why were they better at carrying the ball? ….. primarily because they ran onto flatter passes at pace. The only hard run onto a flat pass I saw from England was a great line from Tuilagi and Farrell throwing him a bullet to the chest. Only a 4 for Farrell from me.

    Agree with Paolo, if we use Tuilagi like Roberts we can get some go forward off a simple game plan.
    1) Smash into contact, get to deck, quick ball. Then have our forwards running round the corner at pace or spread wider to JJ.
    2) Smash into contact stay on feet, drive legs, forwards pile in and maul forward
    3) Decoy attracting 2 defenders at least.

  6. I agree with training Manu at 12, he doesn’t have the pace to go on the outside which limits the options at 13, he could be a Roberts for England and that will open the door for JJ at 13, can’t see it happening on this tour most likely is that Farrel will go in at 12.
    Being in at 12 will let him blitz more as well as there is less chance of getting caught isolated, that backrow can cover you from behind, we can have barrit on the bench to close out matches at 13 or 12, when he is fit.

    I still like Foden on the wing, not to say he is a bad fullback, for the weekend I would bring in Monye and put foden at 15. Monye toured SA before with the lions and he was on good form towards the end of the seasan.

    Size is not an issue in the pack rather hitting the ball at speed, to many England forwards take it static, they need to make the run even if the 9 doesn’t give the ball it goves the defense something to think about.

    I would still like to see Steffan Armitage being given a chance, but he isn’t even there, not impressed, I know Robshaw is doing an excellent job on the floor but is it ilegal to have a 7 and 6 that are good at the breakdown, it also seems a weakness in this SA team, we should do everything to try and exploit it,

    1. Yes, I’ve never understood playing a bosh merchant at 13.

      Surely 13 should be reserved for a player with speed and hands. 12 drags in defenders either by hammering it up the middle or being used as a decoy. The space created can then be exploited by a quick and canny 13 to set his back 3 free.

      You want a Conrad Smith at 13, not a Mike Tindall

      If you can then find a 12 who can do the hard work, but also has hands and speed, a la SBW, then you’re laughing.

      Unfortunately, England have plenty of bosh merchants but no SBWs. For a whille, I though Turner-Hall might turn into a Ma’a Nonu type of player, but he seems to be too much power and not enough craft

      Luckily we do have a couple of decent 13s. Joseph, Lowe, perhaps Jonny May.

      Perhaps Billy 36 could be the man we need for 12

      1. So we just need SBW and Conrad Smith and our center problems will be solved. Maybe try and get that message to Stuart Lancaster.

  7. Ben Coles you dont have the balls to say that Dawson and Farrel are the favorites of lancaster which will be at his peril when England will get a thumping from the boks this saturday.so disappointed at the way Waldrom is treated.England need Ben Morgan to go forward.England is a better team than that.i think Robshaw is over estimated.we need Cipriani,Dilon and Stephon Armitage,Courtney Lawes to beat the southern hemisphere sides

    1. We don’t need Cipriani. He’s a liability. Flood is a better all round player and rather than having Cipriani i’d rather they nurtured the likes of Ford and Heathcote than spend it on wasted talent like DC.

      We don’t need Delon either.

    2. The only player I’d agree with there is Steffon Armitage. He is something England have missed.

      Courtney Lawes maybe. I think the second row is working better without him though to be honest.

      Cipriani is a liability. No defensive organisation, no solid simple/dangerous attacking play. He was better 5/6 years ago at fullback for Wasps. Flood/Farrell are much better and Burns/Ford/Heathcote are the future. No room for Cips unless there is a horrible accident at a fly-half convention.

      Delon Armitage is a loon. How he stayed in the England side so long amazes me. Was it 9 disciplinaries in 8 months? He looked good under the highball a few years ago but he doesn’t play at all well. Tactically, defensively and attacking, pure rubbish. Much better with Foden/Brown

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