- England head coach pleased to emerge from Springboks clash unscathed
- “We're not here to entertain or be pretty. We’re here to win” – Woodward
Clive Woodward is delighted to have emerged from the crucial Pool C tie against South Africa in Perth with a 25-6 victory and has insisted that winning – not fluency – comes first for his England side.
The 2003 Rugby World Cup favourites found themselves under pressure as Rudolph Straeuli’s Springboks dominated large parts of the first half, but four missed kicks from Louis Koen ensured the half-time score was 6-6.
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A far more structured performance then saw England pull away after the break, Will Greeenwood’s opportunistic try on the hour mark proving vital.
Speaking afterwards, Woodward praised his charges for their determination and suggested the focus had already moved on to the next assignment – Sunday’s clash with Samoa.
“I’m very relieved,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty – the first half was frustrating but it was a must-win game that we’ve won. The crowd here were magnificent and I hope the people at home enjoyed it as well.
“We can’t get too carried away. We got through the game and we move on to Melbourne, it’s as simple as that. This is a World Cup – we’re not here to entertain or be pretty. We’re here to win.”
Echoing those sentiments, skipper Martin Johnson highlighted the quarter-final of the 1999 tournament between the two teams – when Jannie de Beer remarkably dropped five goals to send England out – as evidence that the contest was always going to be tight.
“We’ve got to enjoy this,” he explained. “There’s been a lot of pressure on this team this past week. As favourites, there’s probably a different mindset in World Cups, but I think we’ve handled it pretty well.
“It was a proper Test match and could have gone differently if they had kicked their goals in the first half. They put a lot of pressure on us at breakdown and trapped us by putting a lot of pressure on Jonny [Wilkinson].
“We tried to do that to them in the second half and the score came from that territory – the try was the difference and we could just slot a couple of drop goals to keep away from them then.
Photo: Getty Images
“Our defence was pretty good – obviously we didn’t concede a try and they tested us at times with some very good runners. I’m happy and relieved.”
Left to rue a major chance to beat much-fancied opponents, South Africa captain Corne Krige also pinpointed the period just after half-time as crucial.
“We knew they had come back against so many teams in the past so in the second half we were going to have to get hold of the ball early on,” said the openside flanker. “We didn’t quite manage to do that – they got the early penalty and from then on we were always against it.”
Although just as disappointed, a magnanimous Straeuli stressed that a tougher passage through the knockout stages – including a potential date with New Zealand in the last eight – would not unsettle the Sprinboks.
“Congratulations to them – we have to take the difficult route now but we are not downhearted. There is a lot of fight in these players but technically we were beaten by a better side.”
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Rugby World Cup win, RFU.com is posting highlights and reaction from each of England's matches. On Friday, head here for highlights from the Pool C clash against Samoa.