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England tour of South Africa 2012 / Reaction
South Africa 14-14 England, Port Elizabeth
Lancaster: England are in a good place
ESPN Staff
June 23, 2012
England's Danny Care is wrapped up, South Africa v England, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, June 23, 2012
Danny Care shone for England © PA Photos
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Stuart Lancaster hailed his young side after they avoided the series whitewash with a 14-14 draw with the Springboks on Saturday.

England could have won the game in the dying embers of the match but Owen Farrell failed to connect with the ball properly with the kick flying along the ground rather than towards the posts. But regardless of the eventual 2-0 score in the series, Lancaster was full of praise for his charges.

"We have mixed feelings in terms of the result," Lancaster said. "We are desperately disappointed not to have got the win. I was really pleased we improved our defensive performance from last week and I thought our mentality and mindset going into the game was strong - but we are disappointed not to have won, particularly having got into a position where we could have sneaked it.

"But credit to South Africa, they are a tough side to play at home, as everyone knows. On reflection for us, from the tour as a whole, there are a lot of positives we can take from it."

England are at the start of their journey under Lancaster and he was keen to emphasise this. "People have got short memories, I think," Lancaster told Sky Sports. "Take us back six months - we lost a huge amount of experience out of this England side. When you take out Jonny Wilkinson, Simon Shaw, Mike Tindall, Lewis Moody... it takes time to rebuild.

"They [South Africa] had over 500 caps in their side. We're a side just developing that experience. Don't get me wrong - we're gutted not to win the game. We wanted to win the game. We wanted to win the series. We didn't, but there are plenty of positives to take as well."

One particular positive was the performance of scrum-half Care on his return to the side at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The 25-year-old was dropped for the Six Nations earlier this year after a series of off-field incidents and has been made to wait for his recall.

Lancaster said: "We are in a fantastic position in this country in terms of the quality of nines we have got. We lose Ben Youngs, who had an outstanding second Test, then Danny Care starts the third Test and gets man of the match.

"That is not counting Lee Dickson who, throughout the Six Nations and this tour, has pushed both and could be considered unlucky not to start. I'm delighted with the strength in depth and really pleased for Danny. He has made his mark back on the international stage. It was his 33rd cap but it felt like his first again."

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer felt England had played the better rugby and he praised Lancaster's men. "All credit to England, I thought they adapted much better than us to the conditions," Meyer said. "They kicked it behind us one or two times and defended for their lives.

"It is no use making excuses. They had a great game and we didn't adapt well. These guys needs to learn, a lot of these guys haven't played in these conditions at Test level.

"It was a great performance by England. I thought they were better on the night."

South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn struggled from the tee but Meyer backed his man to recover and re-find his best form before the Rugby Championship. "Morne is a worrier. He knows he is not playing at his best. In the last two games I feel he has played well but his kicking is not there. He has got high standards but I know Morne and he will be back."

Dylan Hartley was England's skipper on the day and he is already looking ahead to the November Tests. "It's been a tough tour. It's been a good three weeks," Hartley said. "We've grafted hard, just haven't played for the full 80 minutes.

"Today we strung together a full 80 minutes. Defence was good, ball-retention was good - we just didn't come away with the result. It was a tough Test, as always. In the last two games we've learned when the green machine gets going they're hard to stop. We took a bit of pride today in two-man tackles, getting it off the line, stopping their momentum. A draw's a draw. We'll take it and look forward to playing the boys again in November in England."

Flanker James Haskell revealed the renewed sense of team spirit had been a big factor in the squad's approach. He said: "I spoke to the guys before the game and it's something Stuart's instilled in us. The shirt - you've got it for a very short time and I think we're sick of losing in the white shirt.

"The squad's come on really well. It would have been good to get a win. Unfortunately, I just don't think we were good enough in attack. We just didn't get enough calls going our way in the breakdown battle."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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