There is no doubt that England were under pressure before the game against South Africa. Injuries, an ongoing dispute over player welfare and the fact that England hadn’t won this fixture in ten years meant that the spotlight was firmly on them at Twickenham.
They had to weather the storm in the opening minutes as the gargantuan South African pack advanced. But once the game settled, England began to expose a poor Springbok team.
The 37-21 scoreline flattered South Africa and the result confirmed that England have picked up where they left off after the summer’s tour of Australia.
For me, two virtually identical moments of quality sum up this match. I am referring to both of Ben Youngs’ sublime dummies to set up tries for George Ford and later for Owen Farrell.
The unfortunate Pieter-Steph du Toit was twice left for dead by these magical moments from a player right at the top of his game.
It is fitting that Ford and Farrell, who are rapidly becoming a world-class double act, were the beneficiaries as they dominated the game.
These moments highlight exactly how England defeated the Springboks; speed of thought from Youngs bamboozled the laborious opposition forwards and he always had two world-class playmakers to choose from.
The South Africa win was followed by a 58-15 demolition of Fiji. The 43 point margin of victory was the largest England have ever recorded over the Pacific Islanders, which is remarkable given the fact that the team sent out was largely a second string side.
Next up at Twickenham are Argentina and Australia. Victories over the southern giants will not help to quieten talk of Hartley and company challenging New Zealand’s recently-set world record of 18 consecutive wins.