A second-half surge allowed the Springboks to beat Scotland 30-17 but the hosts should still be disappointed with the poor quality of their performance, reports JON CARDINELLI at the Mbombela Stadium.
Jim Hamilton was yellow-carded in the 51st minute for foul play, and the Boks managed to score seven unanswered points in the Scotland lock's absence. This proved to be the turning point, as the Boks not only took the lead for the first time in the second half, but also managed to take control of the game.
For large parts of the contest, however, it was a performance without control.
Promises of improved execution were emphatically broken, as the Boks racked up the handling errors in the first 40 minutes. Physicality at the collisions was also sorely lacking, as was accuracy on defence. It was as if the Boks had believed the hype that they simply had to rock up at the Mbombela Stadium to bag a 50-point win over these rag-tag Scots.
The visitors were superior at the tackle, and were successful in getting under the skin of the South African forwards. The bald-headed, shaggy bearded Alasdair Strokosch led the way in this respect, and it was because of players like the rugged flanker that the Boks battled for momentum.
Having said that, the Boks did enjoy some success at the breakdown. While they failed to dominate at the collisions, they won some important penalties on the deck. It was just a pity that they couldn't show the application or patience to put the Scotland defence under sustained pressure.
The Boks were dealt a big blow in the fifth minute when blindside flanker Arno Botha sustained a serious knee injury and was taken from the field. As a result, Marcell Coetzee was moved to blindisde, while Siya Kolisi (pictured) came off the bench to play in that fetcher position.
Kolisi had an outstanding first game for the Boks. His defence was excellent, but it was his ball-carrying that was the real highlight. It's just a shame that not many of the other Boks could replicate this performance, or that the team as a collective battled to gel.
There were problems at the lineout, with Adriaan Strauss and Juandré Kruger getting their wires crossed on more than one occasion. The lack of a platform had a negative impact on the halfbacks and going backwards both Ruan Pienaar and Morné Steyn took some poor options.
The kicking game was inaccurate, and the defence diabolical. The Scots enjoyed plenty of momentum in that first half, breaking the line and bumping off would-be Bok tacklers.
The focus was on attack in the build-up to this game. No doubt the emphasis ahead of next week's clash will be on defence.
Scotland scored a wel- worked try right after half-time, and an excellent touchline conversion by Greig Laidlaw took the visitors to an impressive 17-6 lead. Some of the more optimistic tourists would have felt that they were in sight of an upset.
But the Boks rallied strongly, putting pressure on the visitors via the rolling maul. Referee Roman Poite awarded the Boks a penalty try and when Hamilton was sin-binned, the chances of a famous win evaporated.
The Boks added tries through JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein, while a penalty goal and a conversion by replacement flyhalf Pat Lambie served to boost the Boks' lead to 13 points.
A glance at that final scoreline may suggest that the Boks won comfortably, but it was anything but a cruise to victory.
The Boks will play Samoa, who beat Italy 39-10, in next week's series decider at Loftus Versfeld. There isn't an area in which they excelled against Scotland, and they have plenty of work to do.
They may have picked up another win against Scotland, but there's no getting around the fact that it was a disjointed and error-strewn performance.
Springboks – Tries: Penalty try, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2), Pat Lambie. Penalties: Steyn (2), Lambie.
Scotland – Tries: Matt Scott, Alex Dunbar. Conversions: Greig Laidlaw (2). Penalty: Laidlaw.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Scotland – 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Boks have bigger worries
There are many reasons for the Springboks’ ongoing woes, but blaming transformation agendas is futile and far off the mark, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
No quick fix for SA rugby’s slide
South African rugby is at its lowest point in the professional era, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.
Battling Boks will miss Duane
The Springboks have lost the one player they could not afford to lose on the eve of the Rugby Championship, writes JON CARDINELLI.