The England supporters’ rollercoaster continued at the weekend as the depleted England ‘1st XV’ led South Africa at half time, before capitulating dramatically in the second half.
Dan Scarborough’s interception try left us thinking that they might just pull off an incredible scalp and give the whole squad a huge confidence boost prior to the Rugby World Cup, and the crucial group match in September.
Unfortunately, over thirty points were conceded in as many minutes to leave the Springboks with a considerable psychological edge. Yes, we can say that we had lots of injuries; yes, we can say we didn’t have any Leicester, Wasps or Bath players, but we cannot argue about the potential damage inflicted by two record defeats.
When England and South Africa meet in the pool stages of the 2007 World Cup, the loser will face probably elimination from the competition in the next round by lining up a much more difficult draw. In the glorious year of 2003, the two teams were again in the same group, and England’s win was vital in clearing a relatively easy path to the final, whilst South Africa were beaten quarter-finalists.
The one glimmer of hope was the result between the England Saxons and New Zealand Maori, the two nations’ second string sides. Perhaps we have the strength in depth to cause an upset at the world cup, but I suspect we have run out of time to prepare for a credible defence of the title.