By Katie Field, Rugby World writer
In a nutshell
SCOTLAND had enough possession and territory, particularly in the second half, to win this Test match, but two things counted against them in the final analysis. They allowed South Africa to build up a 21-3 lead in the first 45 minutes thanks to a few crucial errors and acts of indiscipline, and when they did summon a sustained head of steam in the last half-hour they were thwarted by a truly outstanding Springbok defence. Scotland had more than enough try-scoring chances to win the game but were held at bay by the powerful tourists.
The match swung on two crucial phases of play. In the 45th minute a risky pass from Mike Blair was intercepted by South Africa hooker Adriaan Strauss, who ran 40 metres to score his second try which put the tourists 21-3 ahead and gave Scotland a mountain to climb. The second key moment was 20 minutes later when Scotland were penalised for an early hit in the scrum inside South Africa’s 22, giving the Springboks the chance to clear their lines after the Scots had laid siege to them for 15 minutes. A try for the home side at that stage would have given them a great chance of snatching a win.
Bath flanker Francois Louw was named Man of the Match for his contribution to South Africa’s rear-guard action in the second half. Their other flanker, Willem Alberts, was a real handful in attack and defence in the first half. For Scotland, Kelly Brown and Al Kellock showed up well among the forwards and try-scorer Henry Pyrgos really increased the momentum when he came on for the last half-hour and possibly played his way into the starting line-up for next weekend’s Test.
Room for improvement
Scotland did their best to match South Africa’s immense physicality but their cause was not helped by the loss of Alasdair Strokosch to injury the day before the game and Richie Gray to concussion after the first quarter. The first South African try came from a driving maul which Scotland countered poorly and they handed possession and territory to their opponents with silly mistakes on a few other occasions.
South Africa will be concerned at their lack of possession in the second half. They struggled to turn Scotland over and did not dominate the scrums as they may have hoped to, losing three out of seven of their own feeds.
In quotes – winners
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer: “It was not a great match but I’ll take an ugly win. This is a young team and we have only won two away from home. Scotland played superbly and can be proud of what they achieved but our guys didn’t panic and the defence was awesome. It really showed the character of this young team.”
In quotes – losers
Scotland coach Andy Robinson: “We gave them the field position and territory for their two tries from a maul – which made me very angry – and an interception. You can’t afford to do that. The guys can take credit and know they can play against the best teams but we need a good performance against Tonga next week to show we have learned the lessons of the past two weeks.”
Scotland had 63% of the possession and 67% of the territory, but South Africa kept them at bay through long periods under pressure in the second half and made 138 tackles to Scotland’s 64.
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw (Ruaridh Jackson 68), Mike Blair (Henry Pyrgos 47; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford (Dougie Hall 68), Euan Murray (Geoff Cross 68), Richie Gray (Alastair Kellock 21), Jim Hamilton, Kelly Brown (captain), John Barclay, David Denton.
Try: Pyrgos. Con: Laidlaw. Pen: Laidlaw.
SOUTH AFRICA: Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie (Morne Steyn 73), Ruan Pienaar; Gurthro Steenkamp (Heinke van der Merwe 61), Adriaan Strauss (Schalk Brits 75), Jannie du Plessis (CJ Van der Linde 53), Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger (Flip van der Merwe 68), Francois Louw, Willem Alberts (Marcell Coetzee 53), Duane Vermeulen.
Tries: Strauss 2. Con: Lambie. Pens: Lambie 3.
Sin-bin: Flip van der Merwe (76min).
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).