• A little drop of heaven: Dan Parks nails a drop goal as the helpless Boks can only look on. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Rarely has one headed into Murrayfield and found the rain collecting in puddles all around the ground bringing a smile to the face, but on Saturday it was the perfect backdrop for a battle that Andy Robinson's team were set up for.
This second chapter of the 2010 EMC Autumn Test series was all about regaining pride, which comes from within, stems from the heart and works its way through muscle and sinew, putting attributes such as determination, courage and physical conviction above all else. That proved to be just the kind of contest this Scotland team needed at this juncture as they proved mettle is not something that is lacking.
Some had commented earlier in the week that the Springboks would be "easier" for Scotland to play, because they are a more one-dimensional side than the almost 3-D morph of New Zealand.
While there was some truth in that, it still it was a stretch for Scotland supporters to imagine that their confidence-rocked side could beat the reigning world champions and number two nation in world rugby.
The South Africans were missing top squad players to injury, the likes of Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Jacques Fourie, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, with No 8 Pierre Spies also rested, yet such is their strength in depth that the team was full of proven Test performers, barring the new wing Lwasi Mvovo, who Scotland inexplicably failed to really test.
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The Scots, however, were also without their first-choice scrum-halves in Chris Cusiter and Mike Blair, leading No8 Johnnie Beattie, second row Al Kellock and threequarters Rory Lamont and Max Evans, and lost their lineout leader Scott MacLeod to a bad rib injury after just 35 minutes.
But, led by a new skipper in his first Murrayfield start, Rory Lawson, a stand-off in Dan Parks to whom difficult conditions really are akin to manna from heaven, the towering John Barclay and a formidable pack, even a clutch of technical slip-ups were overcome in a performance that grew in confidence and stature as the game went on and the rain poured down.
The South Africans stuck to their game-plan, their overt confidence in their robust, confrontational style of play barring any move to follow the All Blacks' and expose Scottish frailties wider out, and for all their respectful talk during the week, that failure to change tack at any stage in the game pointed to a complacency.By contrast, with a pack showing a steely intent as a unit to take on South Africa aggressively in the scrum, lineout and loose play, tackling with venom and a desire to get off the ground and repeat the feat - in some furious exchanges, individual Scots were making three or four tackles inside a minute - and running with a greater directness, Scotland had in Parks the master controller.
He had been told to vary his game more and utilise his fine kicking for territory, but when the rain appeared an hour or two before kick-off, the stand-off must have fallen comfortably into pre-programmed mode. At least it seemed that way from kick-off, as he kicked in behind the Boks' back three, placed balls high and wide for Scots to attack, then dinked kicks into the wide expanse they left between themselves and the rest of their team as they sat deep waiting for bombs.
Sean Lamont failed to grasp one to the left above Gio Aplon after 22 minutes and terrific Springbok defence and scrambling ability shut out a break by Graeme Morrison on to a chip a few moments later, but the period between 15 and 35 minutes was the first in which Scotland grasped this game and laid the foundations for victory.
We have heard it said so often that rugby is a simple game and this win proved it, as Scotland were not at their best, Lawson and Vernon fatally hesitating at the back of the scrum early on, passes going astray and penalties being given up needlessly, which allowed Morne Steyn to open up a 6-0 early lead which could have been 12-0 but for misses by Steyn and his namesake Frans.
But when Scotland put some of their training-field plans together they scored. Simple. Nikki Walker was used infield through the stand-off channel after quarter-of-an-hour, Joe Ansbro, making a fine debut, took it on with some aggression, and the Boks were penalised. Parks kicked the goal.
A lineout throw long over the back to Kelly Brown was fed back into Lamont, MacLeod trucked it up and the right number of players rucked over him - decisions on how many players to commit to rucks were much improved on last week - Ross Ford battered back into the 22, ball was quick coming back and Parks struck a drop-goal to equalise.
Then terrific aggression from Euan Murray, MacLeod and the tireless Allan Jacobsen turned a Bok lineout error into a Scottish penalty. Ball back with Scotland.
Nathan Hines claimed a good lineout, rucking was good, quick ball ensued and when Parks went wide with his kick, Lamont applied the pressure, that brought a scrum, and the pack applied the pressure that brought Parks another penalty. The fly-half then applied the technical accuracy and Scotland were ahead 9-6 with 25 minutes played, the same stage at which Scotland had been dead and buried by New Zealand only a week earlier, at 28-3 down.Scotland's grip on the game remained, the dynamism in their game ratcheted up again, and their reward was another penalty on the half-hour, which Parks converted from 37 metres. The way Parks organised his backs and then ran ball from his 22 as the Boks backpeddled waiting for a kick underlined how superior was his thinking to that of his opponents. Lock Richie Gray was penalised for knocking ball from Francois Hougaard's hand, so Morne Steyn closed the gap to 12-9 at half-time, and a hesitant pass from Lawson got Parks flattened before the break, but Ansbro, Vernon and Gray finished the half with a flourish that ensured a standing ovation for the men in blue as they trooped inside.
The Boks had scraped wins over Ireland and Wales thanks largely to second-half comebacks and so when Morne Steyn levelled matters six minutes into the second period, punishing Scotland's failure to look after ball, there was a nervous air around Murrayfield. Ford's usually reliable lineout throwing started to go awry.
But Vernon manufactured a 40-metre break across halfway, retained possession well and the platform brought a chance for Parks to nudge Scotland back in front.
The stand-off added two more thanks to the Scottish scrum, Gray's lineout work and a touch of fortune perhaps from the referee, but, crucially, in a ferocious last quarter, in which the clearly angry Springboks launched furious assaults at the Scots' 22, and scored the game's only try - Scotland holding up the first effort after a dominant lineout drive, only for a messed-up lineout to hand replacement Willem Alberts an easy dive-over - the Scots' nerve held.
On for Morne Steyn, Patrick Lambie, the son of Scottish grandparents destined to be a Boks star in the future, missed the conversion, and the crowd - just over 35,000 but sounding like a full house - roared the introduction of Chris Paterson for his 101st cap, cheered 'Scotland, Scotland' and lustily sang 'Flower of Scotland' as Murrayfield became a theatre rapt by the on-field play; no sign of 'Mexican Waves' here.
The crowd then counted down, in a deafening chorus, the last five seconds, Lawson's troops having shut down the final stages and with good composure presented the ball on a plate for the scrum-half, who duly kicked the ball to the West Stand to seal only the fifth Scotland victory over South Africa in 21 Tests and 105 years, and second in the last 41.
Irrespective of the lack of tries in this hard-fought, often dour encounter, victories are what gains respect in international rugby, and this one was as good for Scottish standing and the Scots' psyche as any, founded as it was on a winning blend of courage, nerve and sublime goal-kicking.
Scorers: Scotland - Pens: Parks (6); Drop-goal: Parks. South Africa - Try: Van der Merwe. Pens: M Steyn (4).
Scotland: H Southwell (Stade Francais); N Walker (Ospreys), J Ansbro (Northampton), G Morrison (Glasgow), S Lamont (Scarlets); D Parks (Cardiff), R Lawson (Gloucester, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), R Gray (Glasgow), S MacLeod (Edinburgh), N Hines (Leinster), J Barclay (Glasgow), K Brown (Saracens). Subs: R Vernon (Glasgow) for MacLeod, 35mins, D Hall (Glasgow) for Ford, M Low (Glasgow) for Murray, both 68, C Paterson (Edinburgh) for Walker 73, R Rennie (Edinburgh) for Brown 78.
South Africa: Z Kirchner; G Aplon, F Steyn, J de Villiers, L Mvovo; M Steyn, F Hougaard, T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, B Botha, V Matfield (capt), D Stegmann, J Smith, R Kankowski. Subs: R Pienaar for Hougaard, Alberts, both 47mins, P Lambie for M Steyn 63, F van der Merwe for Botha, 65, C van der Linde for Mtawarira 71, A Strauss for B du Plessis 73.