Winger Jonny May said England’s heroics against the world champions were fueled by the belief that South Africa considered them a serious threat. In a post-match interview, he said that while he fully respected South Africa, they did not feel the same way about England.

The 33-year-old, who won his first cap against New Zealand in November 2014, spoke moments after the 16-15 defeat to the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. He said South African coach Rassie Erasmus’ comments in the Chasing The Sun documentary “added fuel to the fire” following the 2019 tournament final defeat.

The documentary team had full access to the Springboks, their training and the team that made them up, and enjoyed many of the Erasmus team’s pre-match talks, including the final in Japan, which England lost.

Erasmus made a derogatory comment about England when he told his players how difficult it was to play against Wales. He said: “They (Wales) are not weak. They are not like Ireland. They are not like England that is moving away. They are tough.

Asked if England were thinking about the 2019 final, May told Sky Sports: “Not really. To be honest, I don’t think South Africans respect us. Maybe some of the things Coach openly said about us in the documentaries just added fuel to the fire.

“For me personally, I give my best in every game, whether it’s the team or the coach respecting what you do. I think we’re improving and that’s all we can do. We just have to work hard and improve. “This team beat us handily in the fall and we felt like this game got away from us.”

Asked if the team had “exploited” some comments about England in the past, he said: “I’m not the type of person who gets upset with a team that beat us here and there. I try to prepare as best as possible for each game. Of course, some guys used it.”

He also confirmed that coach Steve Borthwick put his legs out in the locker room before the game.

May said: “We talked about their documentary and we have staff who have been with them to tell us what they think and how they feel about us.”

Welshman Aled Walters was South Africa’s fitness coach and played a key role in preparing the Springboks for the World Cup in Japan. He now plays for England and says he makes a big difference to the team.

Asked how to gain respect in a semi-final she almost won, May added: “I don’t know and I don’t care. I respect these guys and what they do. We are grateful to them and wish them all the best. I don’t care what others think of me.

“Playing for England was everything to me. “I’m grateful to be a part of this.”

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