England head coach Stuart Lancaster hailed the efforts of his young side after they claimed a 14-14 draw in the third Test with South Africa.
The Springboks emerged as 2-0 winners of the series, but Lancaster’s side ended the tour on a high note by preventing them from completing a whitewash in Port Elizabeth.
Fly-half Owen Farrell even had the chance to win the contest with the final kick of the game, but Lancaster was keen to take the positives despite missing out on the victory.
“Obviously the rain made it difficult for both sides,” he told Sky Sports after the match.
“It was a tight game. Both sides tightened up, particularly in the second half. I thought we defended much, much better than last week, so I’m delighted with that.
“A couple of ill-disciplined pens didn’t go our way, but overall I’m delighted with the efforts the boys put in over the course of the tour.
“It could have been won with the clock done. They’re the small margins. But when Owen came on, we had an under-21 10, 12 and 13. We’ve got young lads making their debut – Alex Goode was outstanding at full-back.
“Overall, when you look at where we were and where we are now, I think we’re in a good place.”
Some have said that results in South Africa mark a step backwards after a successful RBS Six Nations campaign earlier in the year, but Lancaster is confident the rebuilding job is still on track.
He added: “People have got short memories, I think. 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 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.”
In contrast South Africa captain Jean de Villiers was disappointed with his side’s performance, although he did give praise England’s display.
He said: “Credit to England. They played well. I thought we weren’t good at all tonight. We’ll have to take a hard look at ourselves.
“Our option-taking was poor at times. Obviously the weather doesn’t make it any easier. Credit to them – they did well. At least we didn’t lose the game – that’s the only positive we can take out of this.”