Eddie Jones has compared England’s latest loss to “a horror movie” after watching South Africa condemn his side to a premature series defeat. The head coach has acknowledged his squad are enduring a “bloody tough period” and says their composure under pressure has to improve if they are to resurrect their fortunes.
For the second time in successive weeks England were unable to defend a healthy early lead, failing to register a solitary point in the last 67 minutes of the game.
“It was a bit like a horror movie, almost a rerun of last week,” Jones said, admitting there was no easy answer to his side’s recurring problems. “I wish I knew. The players are putting in plenty of effort but for some reason we’re just not handling the key moments well. As soon as something small happens we just don’t seem to react well to it at the moment.”
England have not endured a leaner run since losing seven Tests in a row in 2007, prompting the World Cup‑winning centre Mike Tindall to suggest on social media that “England are in a pretty bad place and don’t look like they know how to get out of it”.
Having trailed in fifth in the Six Nations and conceded nine tries against the Barbarians last month, England’s only win away from home this year was against Italy in Rome at the beginning of February.
It is certainly a far cry from the first phase of Jones’s tenure and the head coach admits the turnaround is very difficult to take. “It’s painful, extremely painful. It’s a bloody tough period at the minute. No one likes to lose five games in a row. We have been through an exceptional period and now we’re going through this tough period.
“We made errors in different areas of the game today … we’re trying to work out why we did that. An England side is always under pressure, whether you’re winning or losing. Are the players feeling it more now? That’s a possibility. I’ve brought teams here for a long time and to beat South African teams in South Africa you have to play well. There is an ebb and flow to games here and if you don’t control that the game gets away from you.”
A further indication of the strain England are under came when the normally composed Ben Youngs brusquely cut short an interview with Sky Sports immediately after the game. The scrum-half later apologised but his conduct attracted criticism from the former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward.
“You have to be statesmanlike in those situations,” Woodward said. “You don’t do that to someone in the media and I’m really disappointed in him.” Jones, however, said his player’s reaction had been understandable: “When you don’t win, you definitely have frustrations and disappointments and it’s sometimes difficult to control them.”
Jones is now hoping his team can restore a small measure of pride in the final Test in Cape Town. “Everyone is going to fight hard to get out of this and you’ll see an absolutely spirited effort in Cape Town. It’s just about sticking together and understanding what you can improve. If we do that, we will get out of it. We wanted to get out of it after one game. Unfortunately it has gone on a bit longer but we’ll get out of it. There’s plenty of pride in there.”
Jonny May, one of his side’s sharper performers for the second successive week, also believes the team will come good eventually. “When you think that’s five Tests we’ve lost in a row, that is a bit of a shock,” the England winger said. “But we’re not far off, honestly we’re not.
There was further food for thought for Jones as it was later announced that flying home are “It’s becoming a cliche but we just need to do what we’re doing in the first 20 minutes for the whole game and cut the errors out. There’s frustration and that showed in the way we played a little bit.
“We just want a performance, don’t we? We don’t want to come out here and not get a win.”the props Ellis Genge, who has a knee injury, and Mako Vunipola, for family reasons agreed before the tour. Alec Hepburn of Exeter will join the squad in Durban before Saturday’s final Test in Cape Town.