ENGLAND 15 SOUTH AFRICA 16
Decisive try ... Willem Alberts of South Africa goes over. Photo: Getty Images
LONDON: South Africa completed an unbeaten tour of Europe with a 16-15 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday that helped end the hosts' hopes of a top four seeding at the 2015 World Cup.
Springbok flanker Willem Alberts's try, the only one of the match, early in the second half proved the decisive score of a rainswept clash.
Boks win tight tussle at Twickenham
South Africa's Eben Etzebeth tussles with England's Ben Youngs. Photo: AP
However, with the hosts trailing 16-12 and only two minutes left, England captain Chris Robshaw, criticised for running kickable penalties during last week's defeat by Australia, told replacement fly-half Owen Farrell to go for goal rather than opt for an attacking line-out that could have led to a try.
South Africa's line-out superiority provided Robshaw with justification for his decision. But England wasted valuable time before Farrell landed the penalty to make it 16-15 to the Springboks.
And from the re-start South Africa, second in the world standings to England's fifth, did enough to extend their unbeaten streak against the Red Rose to 11 Tests.
"From that last penalty, I thought we would have a chance to get down the other end and put over a drop-goal," said Robshaw.
"You have to take every game as it comes and they were giving away plenty of penalties and we thought we might get another chance," the flanker added.
England coach Stuart Lancaster defended his captain by saying: "Games are not won or lost on any one decision, we lost control in the middle third of the game."
South Africa captain Jean de Villiers sympathised with Robshaw.
"Had they caught that ball from the kick-off and held on to it, they could have come into our area and maybe get a penalty again and suddenly you win the game," de Villiers said.
Asked if England had taken too long over their final penalty, de Villiers added: "That's a fair point. I can't comment on their calling structures but, unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, it worked out for us."
France's victory over Samoa later Saturday meant that England, who conclude their autumn series against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham next week, won't be among the top four seeds when the draw for their home World Cup takes place on December 3.
England, who drew 14-14 when they last played South Africa, in Port Elizabeth in June, made six changes from the side beaten 20-14 by Australia last weekend.
Mike Brown replaced left wing Charlie Sharples and Ben Youngs started at scrum-half in place of Danny Care.
Lock Joe Launchbury was given a first Test start as Wasps team-mate Tom Palmer made way and a rejigged back row saw the return of No 8 Ben Morgan and flanker Tom Wood while fit-again Alex Corbisiero was in at loose-head prop.
South Africa were unchanged from the team that beat Scotland 21-10 last week, with the Springboks having started their tour with a 16-12 win over Ireland.
An attritional first half finished with South Africa 9-6 ahead after Springbok fly-half Pat Lambie kicked three penalties from three attempts while his England counterpart, Toby Flood, landed two from four.
England's changed pack was more competitive in the scrum and loose than against the Wallabies but the Springboks bossed the line-out.
It was no surprise, given the first half, that South Africa kicked a close-range penalty to touch early in the second period that led to their try.
After a catch and drive, South Africa lost the ball but Ben Youngs's attempted fly-hack clear rebounded off Springbok wing JP Pietersen.
Wood knocked-on the loose ball and Alberts plunged over the line.
Lambie converted and South Africa were two scores ahead at 16-6.
England threatened when centre Manu Tuilagi counter-attacked from deep and found Chris Ashton in support.
But Ashton's pass to fellow wing Brown was a poor one, with several later knock-ons hampering England's cause.
Farrell, on for the injured Flood, cut the deficit with a 61st minute penalty before the dramatic finale left England thinking of what might have been.
SOUTH AFRICA 16 (Willem Alberts try; Pat Lambie con, 3 pens) bt ENGLAND 15 (Toby Flood 2, Owen Farrell 3 pens) at Twickenham. Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL).