The Springboks triumphed 36-27 after Pietersen’s 73rd minute try – he began the move with a mazy run, bumping off defenders, from his own half – pulled them clear, but England deserve huge credit for their remarkable comeback.
In the first half, they were absolutely hammered up front by the power and ferocity of the Springbok ball-carriers, but they fronted up manfully in the second half and, with the home side disrupted by unfortunate injuries, they came roaring back.
“It was a golden moment for me, I played some of my best rugby tonight, both on attack and defence,” Pietersen said. “But in the second half we dropped our concentration and we had to scramble to contain some line breaks. That’s when work-rate comes first for your team, you need to help when they’re getting tired.”
It was little short of assault in the first half as the Springboks dominated the collisions, earning three tries.
“We had a good first half, we wanted speed on the ball and to run hard, to get momentum,” eighthman Pierre Spies said.
“We were much more clinical at the rucks, especially in the first half, and we were better, more accurate, at the breakdown.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer praised new captain Jean de Villiers for keeping control of a tense situation in the second half.
“We learnt a lot out there, panic could have set in but Jean did really well. I would rather have this sort of win than 80 minutes of SuperRugby and then the team lose in this sort of situation later on,” Meyer said.