SCOTLAND’s interim coach Scott Johnson tried to put a brave face on his team’s 28-0 defeat by South Africa yesterday, but accepted that at one stage of the game he had feared an even worse defeat.
Problems in the lineout put the home team in trouble from the start, and the Springboks scored three tries before half-time to have the victory wrapped up.
Wetter conditions and a better performance from Scotland after the break thwarted the Springboks to an extent, but they still did enough to score a fourth try, and keep a first clean sheet in the fixture since 1951. “We were up against a pretty good side that took every one of their chances,” Johnson said. “We said at half-time we’d dug a pretty big hole here and didn’t want to keep digging. And I think we didn’t keep digging.
“We showed when we kept possession we can hold them. We got punished for our mistakes, and they were very clinical. They took their chances very, very well.”
With three key backs – Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg – all out injured, Johnson suggested it was unfair to compare yesterday’s match with the one on Scotland’s summer tour, when South Africa had to come from behind to win 30-16. But he accepted there were evident problems that needed to be addressed – not least in the lineout, in which Scotland lost five of their first six.
“We’ve got quite a few of our No 1 back division out and it’s a chance for others to stand up. They’ve come a long way in the Championship: we’re just starting our championship, if you like.
“The maul for the first try was wonderfully set up. Then a great try off a missed tackle from kick-off – that was great skill. Then we turn over ball and they run 60 metres and score a great try.
“There’s a lot of us in that as well. But they are very, very clinical.
“There were a couple of issues at the start of our game. That’s the negative side and put us under a heap of pressure. We accept that.
“But sometimes coaches have to look at how people bounce back. We won a lot on the bounce after that. We showed composure under pressure in that area. We got ourselves down early, but we got ourselves out of a jam.
“This journey for us is finding out about people. We found out about a few today.
“I thought the defence held. It was resolute. It’s a funny thing to say when you let in four tries, but with the possession they [South Africa] had it could have gone down a different path – a further path, if you like.
“So I thought it was great resolve in defence. It just goes to show when we get our stuff right, and we started building a bit of possession in the second half, they didn’t threaten after that, because we got our part right.
“It just highlights the fact that most of our issues are completely that – ours. And ours alone. And they’re the ones we need to fix.”
Sean Lamont, deputising at the post-match press conference for captain Greig Laidlaw who was receiving medical attention, said the team could not afford to dwell on the defeat with another Test, against the Wallabies, coming up on Saturday. “We cost ourselves too many scores, and too many quick scores,” the winger said. “They’re second in the world and you can’t do that against top teams.
“We just couldn’t get certain things right. We were trying to force things towards the end a little bit.
“But we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to take the things that went well, or better. We’ve still got another Test and hope to make amends next week.”
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer was delighted with a result that maintains his team’s unbeaten run on their tour, with just one more match, against France, to go.
“You’ll always take four tries to nought in Test-match rugby,” he said.
“I really thought we made a big step up, specially in these conditions. The rain in the second half was a wee bit more difficult, but we need to play in these conditions – the World Cup is going to be in similar conditions. But they [Scotland] are still a quality side.”