England can emerge stronger from their World Cup final humbling at the hands of South Africa if they learn from their naivety, according to former Springboks captain Jean de Villiers.
He believes Eddie Jones’ men tried to be “too fancy” from the outset against Rassie Erasmus’ streetwise outfit.
De Villiers told The Rugby Paper that the margin of victory in Yokohama surprised him, but insisted it was utterly merited.
The former centre, who won 109 caps and was part of the South Africa squad that won the 2007 World Cup, below, said: “It’s not normal that you have 15 minutes left in a World Cup final and already know you’re winning it. But if you really analyse the game, we dominated in all facets.
“We expected South Africa to put a really strong performance, physical and based around a really good set-phase, and they got it spot-on.
“From England’s point of view, there was a bit of naivety. I was quite surprised how in the first play they had Owen Farrell in front of the line-out and tried a smart little move. I’m not sure that suited World Cup final rugby.
“Was the approach the right one in trying to be fancy from the get-go? That first line-out and then having a go from your own dead-ball area…
“It was a bit of naivety in terms of the magnitude of a World Cup final.”
De Villiers added: “Eddie (Jones) was so spot-on in all his selections prior to that, so you can’t really question the thinking before the final. But unfortunately it was the one game that didn’t work out.”
De Villiers is well placed to offer advice to England on how they can rebound from adversity, given his remarkable resilience during an injury-ravaged yet glorious career.
He tore a bicep in the opening match of the 2007 World Cup and played no further part in the tournament which South Africa went on to win by beating England in the final.
Four years later in New Zealand, he injured a rib in South Africa’s opening match against Wales.
De Villiers was captain for the 2015 World Cup campaign in England, but fractured a jaw in the pool match against Samoa to prompt his international retirement.
“Like anything in life, you need to be able to learn from the disappointments,” said De Villiers, who scored 27 Test tries and captained his country 37 times. “Not getting out of their pool four years ago and now losing in the final, there are a lot of positives to take from that progression. Hopefully they come out stronger.
“It’s about not making the same mistakes when you get into that situation again. They’re still a relatively young side and you’d like to think about two-thirds of them would still be around in four years’ time and that can really make them strong.”
A buoyant South Africa can look ahead to “exciting times” after claiming their record-equalling third World Cup and, more importantly, uniting a nation, De Villiers added.
“In terms of what was achieved on Saturday, I think it’s definitely the biggest win we’ve had. It’s probably the first time we can really say that the whole of South Africa can relate to the team.
“That makes us really proud as a nation – it’s what we’ve always wanted to achieve.”
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