In the first meeting between the two sides since the 2019 World Cup final, England started the brighter of the two teams even after losing opening try-scorer Manu Tuilagi to injury.
South Africa fought back, though, dominating the second half and beginning to turn the screw as England’s ill-discipline threatened to take them out of the contest.
Yet Eddie Jones’ side clung on, and Smith’s strike gave Twickenham a chance to roar, and England a victory they perhaps did not deserve.
Harry Latham-Coyle was at Twickenham to see Eddie Jones’ side in action…
Utterly rock solid under the high ball, Steward continues to look totally at ease at international level. An appropriately punchy carry for his try having sashayed into space to make the initial break.
One of England’s top performers, as is becoming habit.
Forced into midfield by Tuilagi’s injury, and didn’t always look totally at home, but produced a telling burst to set up Quirke.
Simply delectable pass to put Steward into space in the build-up to the full-back’s score, and his wide ball to Tuilagi was efficiently executed under pressure, too.
A third crucial pass in the move for the third try, blindly throwing flat superbly at the line. One of his better performances in an England shirt.
One stretching of the legs was all Tuilagi could manage before making another injury-enforced exit. It was a valuable one, of course, putting England ahead in the corner, but his early departure perhaps portents yet more injury woe.
Struggled to get to grips with a game he was reasonably rarely involved in, fumbling and running aimlessly on occasion.
Guided England around well but his drop goal attempt in the dying first-half embers was bad, and the home side struggled to arrest momentum in the second half.
But few will remember that after Smith held his nerve to snatch victory for England in the throes and give Twickenham a first defining memory of their princely fly-half talent.
Sharp thinking to attack the blindside for Steward’s try but a couple of misdirected box-kicks spoiled, slightly, a reasonably quiet (and short) day. Taken off before 50 minutes, which was a surprise.
Properly meatily met by opposite number Ox Nche in one first-half carry but reasonably solid at scrum-time before exiting early in the second half.
A little loose at lineout time even as England tried to protect his throwing vulnerabilities with calls to the front. His try-scoring run ends,
Ever lively in a competitive contest and unable to hide his glee at the early scrum penalty that helped set up England’s opening score.
Struggled at times at the set-piece after, though, and not quite as forceful in the carry as he might have liked.
One spectacular first half restart regather and typically busy, but out-played by the irrepressible Eben Etzebeth.
A step back after two impressive performances. England’s clearing work lacked accuracy at the ruck and Hill was largely unable to impose himself.
After achieving such heights against Tonga and producing another solid showing against Australia, perhaps not quite the performance the England captain might have liked. His side struggled with their discipline.
Reasonably quiet, one lovely flick off the floor aside, before being taken off soon after the players returned from the interval.
Understated at times but ever a menace at the breakdown and the busiest of England’s loose forward trio. Took the captaincy with Lawes off and perhaps took the wrong option with the penalty on halfway – Steward’s big boot might have had a chance.
Not that it mattered, in the end.
One crucial missed throw inside the South African 22 threatened to cost England and his first international scrummaging skirmishes were largely in reverse gear.
It was hoped that the loosehead might be able to defuse the threat of South Africa’s, but if anything England’s scrum was weakened.
Struggled at the scrum after his introduction and then the man sent to the sin bin as the penalties accumulated.
South Africa may feel the lock was fortunate not to be penalised (or more) for his arm to the head of a toppling Etzebeth.
On too late to have a real impact.
Quiet after his introduction.
Brought on surprisingly early and had a mixed half an hour or so. A gleeful canter for the line for his try but a charged down box-kick allowed South Africa to continue to turn the screw.
Pressed into early service after Tuilagi’s injury and settled in quickly. Produced two bits of a simply outstanding defence to keep South Africa out in the second half as the game began to swing the Springboks’ way.
Limited attacking chances.