Graham Law sees the hosts’ winless run continue with defeat by South Africa
The Scotsman, 21 November 1994
“The team perhaps let Scotland down today,” admitted captain Gavin Hastings at the post-match dinner. They did. No matter how well South Africa played in winning the Royal Bank international 34-10 and launching a new era at Murrayfield, Scotland seemed stuck in a time warp as their ninth international without a win passed by.
In many ways, the display was more painful than the 51-15 thumping from New Zealand last year. Errors that were made then – in tackling and ball retention – recurred. Granted, the saving grace was that Scotland did not capitulate after trailing 3-34 in 59 minutes.
The tourists’ coach, Kitch Christie, was right in his observation that his charges had left “tries on the table”, but that did not detract from the hosts’ genuine resolution in the last quarter.
What irked so much was that, unlike the match against New Zealand, especially in the first half, the Scots were going well in the lineout, even contriving to take early ball against the throw.
At half-time they were 13-11 up on the lineout count. Yet what happened to that possession? Too often it was not nurtured as a nurseryman would a tender sapling; rather it was left to be uprooted by a burly rogue.
In that context, the South African back row had a blissful day. It was easy to take issue with coach Douglas Morgan’s second sentence at the post-match press conference. “It’s a difficult game to play without the ball,” he grumbled.
That was hardly fair to his assistant, Richie Dixon. One of the reasons South Africa enjoyed territorial advantage in the first half was because Scotland did not kick well enough, and endured turnovers or mishandling by their backs, sometimes in their own half.
The scrummage count at half-time underlines this contention. Scotland had a mere solitary put-in, while the Springboks enjoyed 11. The tactics Scotland A – remember them? – employed at the Greenyards saw mainly diagonal kicking, with Duncan Hodge the principal exponent.
Now, I’ve heard the argument that you’re not comparing like with like, but since we are winning A internationals at the moment, maybe we should draw analogies.
The full international side sought to take the aerial route through Craig Chalmers’ Garryowens, but by his exacting standards few were struck with the required venom. Even when a Chalmers hoist induced alarm bells in the visitors’ ranks inside the first quarter, Chester Williams made a classic downing of Tony Stanger.
Williams also excelled in auxiliary full-back chores, while his second-half tackle on a quite anaemic Scott Hastings made one wonder whether role reversal was in the tour agreement, considering that Williams was on his feet and spirited ball clear in a manner which Myreside’s favourite centre once seemed to have made his own.
Back to Scotland A. The simplicity of their game-plan was that Ian Jardine was the only member of their inside backs voluntarily taking contact in his own half. It’s hard to recollect any legal turnovers on Jardine.
On Saturday, none of the Scottish backs fulfilled that deed. Graham Shiel will be criticised for missing Joost van der Westhuizen as the scrum-half audaciously snatched his second try, but I doubt if any other Scot had a higher overall tackle count than the Melrose centre.
David McIvor, similarly, will get his share of castigation over Van der Westhuizen’s first try. Yet when he was deployed in the mode for which he was presumably selected – the setting-up of mini-rucks – it would be hard to fault him. He crossed the advantage line and ball was recycled.
That said, the concerns expressed in these columns from the moment the selections for the full and A games were made known – that if Rob Wainwright was fit to play at Melrose then he should have been nominated for Murrayfield – were sadly corroborated.
His pace and footballing skill was missed in the back row – Ian Smith can feel equally aggrieved – where, aside from four lineout takes, Doddie Weir’s contribution was minimal.
Alan Sharp and Andy Reed could be reasonably content with their endeavours, Reed supplied seven of Scotland’s 19 lineout takes, but one rarely saw him in open play, a quibble that could not be levelled against his opposite number, Phillip Schutte, who had a fine debut.
Derrick Patterson was purposeful in difficult circumstances at scrum-half. He made the break in the wake of McIvor’s breenge which all but created a try for Stanger from Gavin Hastings’ sweet pass. Andre Joubert’s tackle, however, denied the winger and not for the first time Steven Hilditch’s adjudication running the line was accurate.
On the other wing, Kenny Logan had his finest game in a Scotland jersey since he came on as a replacement for Gavin Hastings against Queensland on the 1992 Australian tour. He was confident, aggressive and, with Patterson, the only Scottish back who looked to have pace about him.
His recovery of a ball on the deck just before half-time was a moment of class. Chalmers usually performs the basics so well, but the failure of his second-half restart – a key moment in the view of Kitch Christie– was uncharacteristic and costly.
Christie, considering his upbringing as a pupil at Leith Academy, was quizzed on the way ahead for Scotland. “You just have to regroup, come back and start again,” he volunteered. “We have been starting again for a year now,” responded a scribe.
Too true. Changes, both on the field and off, can be postponed no longer.
Scotland: G Hastings, T Stanger, S Hastings, G Shiel, K Logan, C Chalmers, D Patterson, A Sharp, K Milne, P Burnell, J Richardson, A Reed, D McIvor, I Morrison, D Weir. Replacements: C Joiner, I Jardine, G Burns, R Wainwright, P Wright, K McKenzie.
South Africa: A Joubert, P Hendriks, P Muller, J Mulder, C Williams, H le Roux, J van der Westhuizen, O du Randt, U Schmidt, T Laubscher, M Andrews, P Schutte, F Pienaar, R Kruger, R Straeuli. Replacements: K Putt, J Stransky, G Johnson, B Swart, T Strauss, J Dalton.
Referee: O E Doyle (Ire)