Johannesburg – Coach Eddie Jones admitted England were outgunned by a reinvigorated Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday, succumbing 42-39, and praised the Boks’ first black Test captain Siya Kolisi.
“Full congrats to South Africa for winning the game,” said Jones at Ellis Park after the first Test fixture of their three-match tour of South Africa.
“It’s a big moment for the country to have Kolisi as captain and his first game at Ellis Park.
“While I’m desperately unhappy to have lost the game, I think it’s a great thing for rugby generally and the game here.”
Asked about Kolisi, Jones said: “I’m not a politician… but the transformation of having the first black captain… it’s an enormously symbolic thing for South Africa and the transformation.”
Jones said that England had shown verve at the beginning and end of the match but had several “individual disciplinary issues” that hurt his side’s prospects.
“At the end of the game… we got ourselves back in the game. I’m immensely proud of my team and the way they played – they played with a lot of courage at the start of the game, a lot of spirit, a lot of endeavour – but full congratulations for South Africa.
It set the series up magnificently.”
But Jones said the team had suffered because of a lack of training opportunities.
“It was difficult for us and we’ve got to take full responsibility,” he said.
“It’s always hard to know we’ve got players coming off the back of a club season – they were restricted to training because of that.”
Jones played down the significance of choosing Durban as the team’s base for the Test rather than ‘Highveld’ Johannesburg, which sits at 5 750 feet (1 750 metres) above sea level.
“All the science shows you’ve got to be here for 10 days to get acclimatised… we don’t think the benefits of staying at altitude are massive enough,” he said.
“We didn’t lose the game because of altitude, we lost the game because of individual errors.
“The way we started the game, you wouldn’t have thought altitude was a problem. The game swung, it was a big momentum game based on possession.”
England appeared far more coherent in their set pieces and their defensive play was eminently superior to the Boks initially – especially in the first half where the visitors denied their hosts several tries.