In the first half hour it looked like South Africa would run away with this fixture, but Scotland kept in the fight to deny their muscular rivals a bonus point. The Springboks still enjoyed some crunching plays and momentum handed them three tries through veterans Burger, Habana and Pietersen, meaning they ended the night atop Rugby World Cup Pool B – a single point ahead of Scotland.
Springboks rhythm – For the second week in a row, South Africa kept their opponents guessing with a constant drum-beat of attack from Fourie du Preez and his pack smashing forward. If anything it kept Nigel Owens busy – the more touches of the ball, the more contacts he had to see to. It could be dizzying at times, but the Boks looked comfortable with each other and their set-piece.
Scots tenacity – Tommy Seymour’s try was right out of the rope-a-dope handbook. With the Boks bearing down, Duncan Weir plucked an interception out of the air and scampered nearly 80m up the park. He popped off the deck to Tim Visser who netball passed to Tommy Seymour and the Glasgow man scored. It was sublime and showed that these Scots were not total pushovers.
Young locks going at it – Lood de Jager was supreme all game and Jonny Gray was typically industrious. Richie Gray was the games top tackler, with 21, and Eben Etzebeth was his usual self, being a nuisance at the breakdown. These are young men at the top of their games.
St James’ Park – the noise in Newcastle was superb.
Scotland’s starting intensity – The Boks looked ferocious at the contact area and in the set-piece, but Scotland rectified things in the second half. In one half it was physically one-sided, in the second it wasn’t quite so bad. So why, for the third week in a row, did Scotland start so slowly? In the post-match press conference neither Vern Cotter or Laidlaw had the answer. They need to start quickly against Samoa.
General discipline – Nigel Owens felt the need not only to take up game time talking to a few players but also to exercise his yellow card, brandishing it twice. First, Jannie du Plessis was sent to the bin for charging into an opponent’s head with his shoulder in contact and then Greig Laidlaw tripped Habana as the the winger looked set to easily outstrip him and chase down a kick ahead. With 19 penalties given away, it is more than fans would have wanted.
The pitch – Huge clumps of turf got torn up at scrum time. The crowd were great but the ground staff in Newcastle need to sort things out in time for the next Test there.
35 – the number of tackles the Gray brothers put in.
6 – the number of turnover South Africa enjoyed.
10 – the number of times de Jager crossed the gainline.
South Africa: W Le Roux; JP Pietersen (P Lambie 70), J Kriel, D de Allende (J Serfontein 75), B Habana; H Pollard, f du Preez (R Pienaar 78); T Mtawarira (T Nyakane 60), B du Plessis (A Strauss 56), J du Plessis (F Malherbe 50), E Etzebeth, L De Jager (P-S du Toit 74), F Louw, S Burger (W Alberts 70), D Vermeulen.
Tries (3): B du Plessis, JP Pietersen, B Habana Cons: Pollard 2 Pens: Pollard 4 DG: Pollard
Yellow card: J du Plessis
Scotland: S Hogg (S Lamont 63); T Seyour, R Vernon (P Horne 65), M Scott, T Visser; D Weir, G Laidlaw (S Hidalgo-Clyne 70); G Reid (A Dickinson 51), F Brown (R Ford 60), WP Nel (J Welsh 63), R Gray, J Gray (T Swinson 68), J Strauss (R Wilson 29), B Cowan, D Denton.
Tries (1): Seymour Cons: Laidlaw Pens: Laidlaw, Weir
Yellow card: G Laidlaw
Referee: Nigel Owens
Man of the Match: Lood de Jager
Attendance: 50, 900