YOKOHAMA, Nov 2 — England coach Eddie Jones was at a loss to explain a crushing 32-12 World Cup final defeat by South Africa as he admitted his team were “caught short” today.
Many pundits had forecast a tight contest only for the Springboks to outmuscle England, who had themselves been too strong for reigning champions New Zealand in a stunning 19-7 semi-final win, at the scrum and breakdown in Yokohama.
Their traditional game, with number eight Duane Vermeulen outstanding, laid the platform for Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard to kick six penalties before wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scored the only tries of the game against a drained England in the last 16 minutes.
“They were too good for us on the day,” said Jones, appointed by England with the aim of leading them to triumph in Japan after their embarrassing first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.
“We got in trouble in the scrum, we struggled in the first half, made some personnel changes in the second half and got back into it, but for some reason South Africa were too strong for us,” he added.
This was Australian coach Jones’s second World Cup final defeat, having been in charge of his native Wallabies when they lost to England in the 2003 showpiece.
Jones, who knows South Africa well, having been a consultant to the Springboks side that beat England in the 2007 World Cup final in Paris, said the key to playing them was “staying in the fight”.
“We stayed in the fight well and 50 minutes in, we were in with a chance,” explained Jones, the coach of the Japan team that beat South Africa 34-32 four years ago in the biggest World Cup upset of them all.
“We didn’t take our chances today but they took their opportunities and that was the difference in the game.
“We will be kicking stones for four years and it is hard to kick stones for four years.
“We’re the second-best team in the world. We didn’t meet our goal of being the best team in the world but we are the second best team in the world... We played with a lot of pride, passion and we got caught short today.
“I don’t know why we were caught short. Sometimes you never know.”
England lost Kyle Sinckler in just the third minute after the prop appeared to be concussed in a collision with team-mate Maro Itoje.
But Jones played down Sinckler’s injury as a reason for England’s defeat, saying: “It’s part of the game.
“(You have) 23 guys (in a matchday squad), if you lose a guy early, you have to be able to cover it.”
Meanwhile captain Owen Farrell, who kicked all of England’s points, said: “The first half especially, we came in thinking we hadn’t fired a shot... In terms of the start of the game, they had a lot of ball in right areas and got a good few calls that put us under pressure.”
“We couldn’t get a foothold in the game,” the centre added. “They (South Africa) are a brilliant side and played brilliantly today.”
Meanwhile Jones, whose England contract runs for two more years, deflected questions about whether he would still be in charge for the 2023 World Cup in France.
“The only thing we are worried about is having a few beers, then probably a few beers tomorrow and then probably a few more on Monday. Then we will pull up stumps,” the lifelong cricket fan added. — AFP