‘We are close, really close’ - Sam Skinner says Scotland have the quality to beat South Africa next time

Sam Skinner believes there are plenty of positives Scotland can take from their 30-15 loss to South Africa and argues that they played better against the Springboks than they did in the win over Australia.

South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth was named player of the match in the Autumn Nations Series win over Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Gregor Townsend’s side, who beat the Wallabies 15-13 last week, led 10-8 at half-time against South Africa at Murrayfield but the game got away from them in the second half as the visitors’ pack took control.

The try count was 2-2 but the Boks plundered a further 18 points from penalties - five of which came after the break - as the Scots struggled at the set-piece and breakdown the longer the game went on.

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As Skinner noted, they are not world champions for nothing and the ability of their forwards to keep turning the screw eventually took its toll.

Scotland lock Sam Skinner closes in on South Africa scrum-half Herschel Jantjies. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“We were mentally focused for the first 60 and in the last 20 their lineout defence and some scrum pens started to go their way,” said the Scotland lock. “They were relentless in their plan A which is what they are good at and they overturned us in the end and deserved to win.”

It was a gruelling afternoon but Skinner believes there is not too much between the sides who will meet against the at the 2023 World Cup in France.

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“We are close, really close,” said the Exeter Chiefs man. “We’ve beaten Australia last weekend – and I genuinely believe we didn’t really get out of the blocks [in that game].

“We’ve put in a better performance against South Africa for sure. We are playing at the top level. Small margins have a big impact in the game.

“We’ve got two years to keep building for the World Cup. We honestly couldn’t ask for a better squad, better coaching staff, or better facilities.

“It’s all there for us. We’ve just got to stay ruthless with our mentality and keep improving for the Scottish nation.”

Skinner admitted it was hard to stay mentally focused in the final stages as the game slipped away and exhaustion kicked in.

“It’s easy when things are going well for you,” he said. “When things start to go against you a little bit in some areas, it’s tough to regenerate that momentum.

“At times, we could maybe have kept it a bit simpler for ourselves. But that’s hindsight, isn’t it? It’s easy to say that now.

“But we can take confidence from that game, 100 per cent. We know we have the quality to beat that South African outfit.

“They are obviously a good side, don’t get me wrong. They are world champions for a reason. But we can take genuine belief from that game.

“We know we have the tools to win a game like that. But obviously actions speak louder than words.”

The player of the match was South African lock Eben Etzebeth, a worthy winner according to Skinner.

“He operated their lineout defence particularly well and did what he does all round the park. We just have to have that mental focus for the full 80 but credit where credit is due - lovely guy off the field, helluva player on the field, he deserves man of the match.”

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