HEYNEKE Meyer almost cost the Boks a test match on Saturday night.
The coach's decision to bring on the entire Springbok bench in the second half was a big mistake, according to former England lock Paul Ackford, writing on the Ellis Park test in the Sunday Telegraph.
"It was difficult not to think that a massacre was coming," said Ackford as the Boks led 25-10 at halftime.
He said that there had been only one team in it at that time - the Boks. But England weathered the storm, benefiting from a "plethora of replacements".
The Boks won the test 36-27 to clinch the three-test series 2-0, but England shaded them 17-11 in the second half.
During that period, Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn's kicking boots had deserted him - "a cause for national mourning in this part of the world", said Ackford - and Meyer unloaded the bench.
"Big mistake," wrote Ackford. "South Africa's disorganisation was apparent as (Francois) Hougaard, who had enjoyed a much better game, was shunted to the wing. Tackles were missed, mistakes made and England suddenly found themselves getting close to a significant surprise."
That the Boks held on to win had much to do with their physical supremacy - a markedly changed team from the disorganised lot that turned up in Durban to win the first test 22-17.
"This was South Africa in all their pomp," wrote Ackford. "Big, physical men taking an almost sadistic pleasure in tossing England defenders around as if they were rag dolls."
But he warned there was an arrogance to the crushing supremacy of the Boks. They blew several chances through selfish, glory-hunting players. Bismarck du Plessis was especially at fault.
England's 21-year-old centre Jonathan Joseph, who made his first test start on Saturday night, almost got his hand under the ball when Du Plessis scored the Boks' second try.
"On the playing fields of Millfield (the famous English rugby school where he learnt the game) Joseph had not dreamt of this," wrote Mick Cleary in the Sunday Telegraph.
"This was no Arcadian fantasy: this was raw, ferocious, in-your-face rugby being played out in the bad lands of downtown Joburg. Even Bear Grylls would struggle to find a way to survive."
But the Boks did find a way and have now taken on nine England teams in succession - and prevailed each time. The third test in Port Elizabeth may be a dead rubber, but it could be a cracker.