World champions South Africa suffered a narrow 27-26 defeat to England in their final Autumn Nations Series Test at Twickenham in London on Saturday.
Marcus Smith kicked a 79th minute penalty to win the match for England who gained some form of revenge in the two sides’ first meeting since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Japan.
Though England outscored South Africa by three tries to one, South Africa stayed in the game through the boot of Handre Pollard.
England held a 17-12 lead at the break after Manu Tuilagi and Freddie Steward dotted down and Smith added two conversions and a penalty.
The Springboks responded through four penalties from Pollard as the visitors went into the break trailing for a fourth straight time.
Pollard missed a penalty five minutes into the second half but made amends ten minutes later with a successful kick. Substitute fly-half Elton Jantjies finally kicked South Africa into the lead in the 63rd minute as England gave away penalty after penalty.
A quick response from England saw Raffi Quirke cross the whitewash for England with Smith adding the extras to put England 24-18 ahead.
The lead changed hands quickly as Makazole Mapimpi scored a try of his own and veteran centre Frans Steyn slotted a penalty with seven minutes to go to make it 24-26 in a tense finale.
However, the Springboks were undone as Smith stepped up to convert the late penalty in front of the posts and secure a slim victory.
After the match, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said the team will come back stronger next year having ended the season with eight wins from 13 matches.
“This year was one where we always knew that we’d be finding out where we were after missing out on 2020,” Nienaber said.
“I think we can definitely improve and we’re not where we want to be. I don’t want to go into detail but there are things that we want to work on – our execution of opportunities can be better for one.”
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)