He was the hero when the Springboks beat the All Blacks at this same venue last year, but this time Morne Steyn turned villain as another off-day with the boot allowed England to escape with a 14-all draw in the third and final test at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Steyn missed three kicks at goal as well as two drop attempts that would have enabled the Boks to end the series with a confidence-boosting 3-0 whitewash of the old enemy.
Instead they have to be content with a 2-0 win and a slight slip in momentum as the next big challenge, The Rugby Championship, comes into view.
If the Boks are to do well in that competition Steyn is going to have to get his radar working, and some of the players who were missing through injury and for other reasons are going to have to return to the mix.
It was probably a good thing England replacement flyhalf Owen Farrell missed his last-gasp match-winning drop-goal attempt, for improved though they were on the previous match, neither team deserved to win an error-strewn game that produced rugby to match the chilly weather.
By drawing the game, England came closer to beating the Springboks than they have since they last won, at Twickenham in 2006, but the Boks now have a 10-match unbeaten sequence against their old enemy.
Had it not been for Steyn’s misfires though, not just in kicking for goal but also in general play, where he was poor and just looked incapable of taking control of the game, the Boks would have won as they left far more points on the table than England did.
If the Boks learned anything from the experience it was the realisation of just how important some of the missing players – Willem Alberts, Frans Steyn and Patrick Lambie/Zane Kircher – are to the cause.
Of the replacement players, only Wynand Olivier, who made every tackle he was asked to make, received a pass mark.
EFFECTIVE AT THE BREAKDOWN
England were much better than they were in the previous test on defence, and they were effective at closing down the Boks off the breakdown.
Here Alberts was missed for his barnstorming smashes across the gainline. It wasn’t that newcomer Jacques Potgieter was poor, he just looked a bit rusty. He tended to go down when tackled where Alberts would stay on his feet and gain extra valuable metres.
With Alberts being missed, Marcell Coetzee was relied on more as a carrier in this test than in the previous two, but he too couldn’t be expected to have the same impact as his injured Sharks teammate.
That said, he was all over the field once more, and his outstanding work-rate made him easily the Bok man of the match.
Steyn looked jittery at flyhalf and in addition to his failure to bring the variation needed at the quickly advancing England defensive line, he dithered with his distribution and did not help the fluency of the backs by rediscovering his old habit of standing too much in the pocket, even when on attack.
Admittedly he wasn’t helped by indecisiveness of Francois Hougaard, who in turn wasn’t helped by the pedestrian way the ball came back to the Boks from the recycles.
Ruan Pienaar made a difference though when he came on, and given that he is more like Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s initial choice, Fourie du Preez, in playing style, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pienaar wearing the No 9 in The Rugby Championship.
The accuracy of Pienaar’s field kicking game took some of the pressure off Steyn, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the tide swung in the Bok favour when Pienaar arrived.
ALL ENGLAND IN THE EARLY STAGES
After being under the kosh for the first quarter hour, it was the Boks who dominated most of the latter part of the opening half, but without reward.
It was all England in the early stages and with the predicted rain finally starting to make an appearance soon after kick-off, though in drizzle rather than downpour form, South African fans would have shivered both from the cold and with apprehension.
It started at the kick-off, where Juandre Kruger fielded the ball comfortably and then lost it. From the scrum England drove the ball up and forced a penalty that enabled Toby Flood to make it 3-0 to England after just two minutes.
And although Steyn did pull three points back with his first penalty, it was England who had most of the ball.
Steyn’s nightmare could be said to have started when a kick was charged down in the 11th minute which led directly to the attacking situation from which England were eventually able to score when they took a quick tap penalty and caught the unsuspecting South African defensive system off guard, scrumhalf Danny Care completing the score to make it 8-3.
The Boks settled after that and dominated field position and the battle for possession enough to take the lead through two Steyn penalties, but the flyhalf also missed one and it was a period when the Boks really should have scored more points.
Gio Aplon didn’t provide the comforting presence at fullback you would want from a player in that position at international level. His field kicking was poor and he botched his first attempt to field a kick.
His lack of size means he is too easily manhandled and overpowered by the chasers. A well timed Chris Ashton tackle caught him in possession early in the second half and the resultant penalty was kicked by England flyhalf replacement Farrell to take the visitors back into the lead.
The Boks fought back after that though and had some periods of dominance in the middle stages of the second half, with a sustained build-up eventually seeing the England defenders run out of numbers and JP Pietersen score in the corner for what looked like the winning try with 19 minutes to go.
But Steyn missed the conversion and it meant that England could draw level with a penalty, which they did with 10 minutes to go.
The Boks also passed up some kickable penalties that Steyn would have slotted with ease a year ago, and they all added up to points that were missed out on and which made the difference between victory and a share of the spoils.
South Africa – Try: JP Pietersen. Penalties: Morne Steyn (3).
England – Try: Danny Care. Penalties: Toby Flood, Owen Farrell (2).