IT WAS always a big ask but, after falling to the South Africans yesterday, Scotland will head into the 3 December World Cup draw in the third pool of countries with everything that entails.
Scotland: Try: Pyrgos. Con: Laidlaw. Pen: Laidlaw.
South Africa: Tries: Strauss 2. Con: Lambie. Pens: Lambie 3.
Life is only going to get harder down amongst the smaller fish, but Scotland have themselves to blame. Accessories to a crime if not the actual perpetrators.
The home team took far too long to come to terms with the sheer physicality that the Boks bring to bear and crucially they lost their discipline, coughing up some easy, early penalties that sent the visitors on their way. Pat Lambie could, in different circumstances, have been turning out for Scotland but instead the Springbok stand-off slotted three penalties inside the opening half hour which settled the visitors’ nerves nicely. It could have been more.
On two separate occasions the South African skipper Jean de
Villiers eschewed the chance of another three points and opted instead for the attacking lineout. The first one was pinged for truck and trailer (obstruction by any other name) but, with a dress rehearsal under their belts, the Boks got their maul in good shape for a second attempt where they simply steam-rollered the Scots’ opposition like so many pesky insects for hooker Adriaan Strauss to score the first of his two tries.
It didn’t help the Scots’ cause that Richie Gray suffered a bad knock to the head courtesy of flanker Frans Louw who won the man of the match award despite tough competition from his colleague Willem “the Bone Collector” Alberts. Gray’s exit was a loss, the big fella left the field immediately after the Boks’ first try on 20 minutes, but he probably should have gone even earlier.
The Scots not only lost Gray, they also lost the breakdown contest, lucky to come second as they say. The abiding memory of this match was Mike Blair’s backside as the little scrumhalf went digging for the ball at the bottom of the ruck.
The South Africans slowed the Scottish phase ball and they did it subtly enough to stay on the right side of George Clancy. If there was almost nothing that the Scots could do about it, the same cannot be said of Mr Clancy, who could have substituted a couple of penalties for one of his numerous warnings without too much ado. When the referee was pole-axed early in the second half it elicited one of the biggest cheers of the day and by the time he eventually reached for a yellow card (for Flip van der Merwe) the match had just four minutes to run. An earlier card might have produced a much better spectacle.
At least the Scots tackling was much improved if only because the South Africans are not renowned for running around the opposition when they have the option of running right over them. There were a couple of scrums where the Scots got a nudge on, Ryan Grant carried like a Trojan all afternoon, but again the Scots lost a couple of lineouts, one of which was five yards from the Springbok’s line.
Having grabbed the first South African try in thoroughly predictable manner, hanging on to the end of a massive green maul, Strauss then scored the visitors’ second touchdown early in the second half in bizarre circumstances.
The little hooker latched on to a Blair pass and romped under the Scottish posts from 30 metres out with most of the men in blue too stupefied to react. It was pretty much the last meaningful attack that the South Africans launched all afternoon.
Having given the visitors a 21-3 lead, the Scots raised a head of steam to dominate the final 30 minutes of this match. They scored a cracking good try from replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos but they couldn’t find another despite enjoying the lions’ share of territory and possession.
Blair’s interception proved his last act of the day, with the veteran giving way to Pyrgos who got the crowd out of their seats after exactly four minutes into his second Test match. The Scots borrowed a move from the All Blacks, sending a long throw to Kelly Brown at the back of an attacking lineout and the skipper simply dropped the ball back inside for the young scrum-half, who waltzed through a huge hole to score the simplest of tries.
Laidlaw added the extras and the score breathed new life into the home side who realised that this match was not yet dead and buried.The Scots enjoyed their best period of the game with numerous assaults on the Springbok line that ultimately failed thanks to a mixture of poor decision making and some stonewall defence.
Laidlaw had a dart with men waiting on the wide outside and he chipped cross field for Stuart Hogg when Zane Kirchner was always the favourite to get there first.
When Ruaridh Jackson replaced him late in the day, the Glasgow man did much the same thing.
Jim Hamilton barrelled his way over the try line only to be barrelled right back out again and at the death Tim Visser was unable to hold on to a short pass from Jackson that is best described as “unsympathetic”. South Africa’s big men always had a grip on proceedings, be it attacking in the first half or defending their lead after the break.
It wasn’t always pretty but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer won’t loose much sleep over the aesthetics of his young team provided they continue to parade their stuff on the score board.
Meanwhile the Scots have a banana skin to negotiate in the form of Tonga… just don’t call them minnows. The islanders will probably end up in the third World Cup pool of countries alongside Scotland.
Scotland: Hogg, Lamont, De Luca, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw (Jackson 68), Blair (Pyrgos 47); Grant, Ford (Hall 68), Murray (Cross 68), Gray (Kellock 21), Hamilton, Brown, Barclay, Denton.
South Africa: Kirchner, Pietersen, de Jongh, de Villiers, Hougaard; Lambie (Steyn 73), Pienaar; Steenkamp (van der Merwe 61), Strauss (Brits 76), du Plessis (van der Linde 53), Etzebeth, Kruger (ven der Merwe 68), Louw, Alberts (Coetzee 53), Vermeulen.
Referee: G Clancy (Ire). Attendance: 58,893.