In the opening exchanges of this match the giant Springboks’ flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit caught Scotland’s Finn Russell with a tackle that was a split second late. As he got to his feet Russell tripped him up, payback of a sorts.
These sorts of things go on all the time but they were surprisingly prevalent in yesterday’s niggle-ridden match. At one point in the final quarter Allan Dell had a two-minute wrestling match with Duane “God of Thunder” Vermeulen... what is it they say about picking the fights you can win?
In the same vein the South African skipper Siya Kolisi also lost his composure. He was being held on his back by Peter Horne and Kolisi looks like he aims an energetic head-butt at the Scot using the back of his napper.
“I heard about it just after the game,” said Boks’ coach Rassie Erasmus, “I haven’t seen it. Look I am sure the citing commissioner will take a look and if there was anything serious and we are in the wrong, what comes our way we have to accept.
“I know him as a player and as a man so I’d be surprised.”
Erasmus may yet be surprised because the footage is damning, but it will be a shame if a compelling Test match is remembered for one ugly incident.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was aware of the incident but had not seen it and instead talked about the rugby, pointing to “lots of little incidents” for the loss. “We didn’t get enough quick ball and we didn’t get enough possession,” said the coach.
“I think six, nine points probably came from us...when we were in possession and they got over the ball.”
South Africa did win the turnover battle according to the match stats, but only by 13-10, and they lost the penalty count 9-8, but kicked four penalties to Scotland’s two, which only tells you that not all of Scotland’s penalties were in a kickable position... although that one on 58 minutes that Greig Laidlaw aimed at touch definitely was.
“If he wants to get a second opinion there is the opportunity,” said Townsend, “but we want our leaders to make decisions and we’ll back whatever decision they make. We might analyse it on Monday or Tuesday and talk about what might happen next time.”
What Townsend did concede is the high toll the sheer physicality of the Springboks took on his players, the constant heavy lifting required when trying to move huge lumps of men away from the contact zone caused the Scots to struggle at times in this match.
But overall Townsend will have slept pretty well last night after his side stayed in the fight right to the death.
“That was a huge challenge,” said the coach. “I know they are ranked fifth in the world but the way they have been playing they are a top side. A team that almost beat New Zealand twice in a matter of weeks and they picked their strongest team against us.
“We were toe-to-toe with them for long periods… we were in that Test match right to the end.”