Stuart Lancaster: England loss to South Africa an opportunity missed

Stuart Lancaster describes England's narrow 31-28 loss to South Africa as an 'opportunity missed'

Stuart Lancaster has described England’s narrow 31-28 loss to South Africa as an “opportunity missed” but placed his faith in the current set-up despite a fifth straight loss.

The Red Rose had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but could not find a way past the physical Southern hemisphere side.

They fought back strongly to tie the game up from 20-6 down early in the second-half, but South Africa again exerted their control.

This left England seeking a score with mere seconds left on the clock, alike last week’s game with New Zealand in which they also came up “just short”.

“We felt we could have won the game and I certainly think even now it’s an opportunity missed without a doubt,” Lancaster told BBC Sport.

“We’ve come up just short on all occasions and I’m not happy about that.

“To go in [at half-time] 13-6 down put on pressure, and they got a smart try at the start of the second half, but I thought we came back into well and at 20-20, I thought momentum seemed to be with us.

“Some key moments in the latter half of the game hurt us. It’s desperately disappointing.”

However, he expressed support for the current coaches and players, pointing to the narrow margin of victory and injury troubles stretching back to this summer’s tour of New Zealand, in which England lost all three tests.

“This period of games was always going to be a tough one for us,” Lancaster explained.

“We had some non-availability and problems with selection at the start of that New Zealand tour, but you can’t sit back and look at the ‘what ifs’.

“We’re not going to sit here and say we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, because I believe in the coaches and the players and I believe in what we’re doing.

“It hurts to lose, it hurts to lose at Twickenham – but we need to make sure we can turn that hurt into a positive.

“The players we’ve got are good players and we’ve prepared well for this game. We’ve just come up a bit short.”

Lancaster’s opposite number, Heyneke Meyer, agreed with the assessment.

“We were blessed because it could have gone either way. England are a quality side,” he said.

“I must say at one stage we had a great cushion, then they came back to 20-all and I thought they were going to take it. But in these games, the margins are very small.”

“So I’m just proud, and especially because we played the conditions. Last week [in the 29-15 loss to Ireland], we didn’t adapt – tried to score a lot with ball in hand – and today we were very clinical and very disciplined.

“It went our way in the end but it could have gone the other way.”

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