Eddie Jones has apologised and taken “full responsibility” for a dismal defeat by South Africa, which made it England’s worst calendar year since 2008, with the World Cup looming into view.
In echoes of the 2019 World Cup final, Jones’s side were outgunned by the Springboks, who dominated the scrum and the aerial battle and cantered to a 27-13 victory despite losing Thomas du Toit to a second-half red card.
As a result, England end their autumn campaign with one win from four matches – against Japan – and with only five victories in their 12 matches in 2022, their worst return in 14 years. Rather than turn on his players, however, Jones sought to shoulder the blame for the toothless performance at Twickenham and claimed the defeat could prove a “watershed” moment for his side, with just nine Tests remaining before the World Cup begins in France next year.
“We didn’t play well today and I apologise for that. It is entirely my fault and I take full responsibility,” said Jones. “We are judged by results but I feel there is growth in the team which wasn’t evident today. We don’t want to get beaten by a big score by South Africa and don’t want to have the worst record since 2008, so I accept full responsibility for that.
“I think it is a bit of a watershed game for us and we came into the game with high expectations on how we wanted to play on the back of Japan and New Zealand. In this game South Africa were a bit too tough in the scrum and the air and I know where we have to improve.
“Are we moving in the right direction towards the World Cup? Yes we are. I don’t care what other people think. Obviously, we are disappointed with our performance but there are 11 months to the World Cup and I have no doubt we will rise to the occasion. We just didn’t fire a shot as we wanted today. You have to win contests against the Springboks and we didn’t win the air or the set piece. We lost two of the key contests and we have to improve in those areas.”
Victory ends a mixed campaign for South Africa, after defeats by Ireland and France, but rounds off a trying month in which their director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, was again banned for his outbursts on social media. Earlier in the day SA Rugby finally made an official statement on Erasmus, revealing he had met the World Rugby chief executive, Alan Gilpin, and that they had held “positive discussions” regarding communication with match officials.
Despite his absence, South Africa were dominant, with the head coach, Jacques Nienaber, proclaiming a “special” win – the Springboks’ first over England at Twickenham for eight years. “There were a couple of special wins this year but we haven’t got a result here since 2014, it’s a tough place to get a result, it was very special,” he said. “The forwards were outstanding and the backs used the opportunities when they got the platform. They laid a nice foundation for the backs to have a go.”