South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said his side had played “World Cup-winning rugby” after seeing off next year’s tournament’s hosts England 31-28 at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Springboks bounced backed from their tour-opening 29-15 loss to Ireland in Dublin with a much-improved wet-weather game.
“I’m very proud of the guys, because we really adjusted the game plan to the conditions,” Meyer said. “I thought tactically we were very astute.”
South Africa were 20-6 up early in the second half, but then, with Springbok lock Victor Matfield in the sin-bin, saw their remaining forwards unable to stop England’s pack driving over prop David Wilson and replacement No. 8 Ben Morgan for a pair of scores that leveled the match at 20-20.
Yet with England, roared on by a crowd of more than 82,000, seemingly revitalized, it was two-time world champions South Africa — with Matfield still off the field — who scored next thanks to a try by flanker Schalk Burger.
“Sometimes you have to have a game like this where you do the basics right, ground out a win,” Meyer said. “That’s also Test match rugby and, for me, that’s World Cup-winning rugby. There’s going to be three knockout games and sometimes you have to play like this as well.”
Although this was South Africa’s 12th Test in a row against England without defeat — a run including 11 wins — Meyer said the fact that the past three encounters had yielded a draw and wins by a point and now three points respectively, should encourage the Red Rose brigade.
He even suggested the sides could meet in next year’s World Cup final, although they will clash at the quarter-final stage if only one team fails to win their respective pool, but qualifies for the knockout stage as group runner-up.
“I believe they can have a great World Cup and be a team in the final,” former Leicester coach Meyer said of England. “Hopefully, we can meet them in the final at Twickenham.”
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