South Africa 55 Scotland 6
When Scotland next face South Africa – on 3 October, 2015, in their penultimate Rugby World Cup pool game at St James’ Park, Newcastle – what lessons will they learn from this comprehensive defeat at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth today?
Those who represented Scotland in the fourth and final game of this summer’s tour knew beforehand what was coming with the brutal and relentless engagement – all at high tempo – of the South Africans at the contact area.
But the manner in which Scotland started the game – conceding five penalties in the opening quarter today, mainly at the breakdown – is something they know they must improve upon. The final penalty count ended 15-11 against Scotland.
Head coach Vern Cotter – ending his first campaign with the three tour victories against USA, Canada and Argentina on the credit side of the ledger – challenged his players to analyse that start and the role they played in some of South Africa’s eight tries this afternoon.|
Cotter also noted, rightly, that Scotland must “repeat the good things” – the scrum and the lineout have been largely positive throughout the tour and were so again today – and continue to show the character in spades that supporters always expect to see in a team wearing the thistle.
“What we have to get rid of is our tendency to give opposition easy points,” he added.
Both sides today were shorn of players as the match was outwith the Regulation 9 window and neither outfit was injury free either.
Today’s match, however, suggested that South Africa’s resources – and ability to perform – are at present much better attuned than the Scots to the white-hot intensity of the Test match arena.
Yet, if lessons are truly learned – and you can guarantee that Cotter and his fellow coaches will leave no stone unturned in their determination to cram for the next “exam” – then today’s Scotland starting team (average age of 25) might find it a salutary experience after all?
Since last year’s summer tour to South Africa, Scotland have awarded a total of 22 new caps – eight of whom gained the prized recognition during the last month in North America, South America and here.
The pool of talent has been broadened but it’s now up to these players and the nucleus of the worldly-wise and gnarled to show that the good things from this tour can be embellished, while the self-inflicted mistakes can be eradicated.
Scotland had done well to recover from the opening Springbok blitzkrieg and only trailed 6-19 at half-time, sweetly-struck Duncan Weir penalties in the 7th and 35th minutes providing the visitors’ points.
The home team’s tries had come from Marcell Coetzee, Willie Le Roux and Lwazi Mvovo with debutant Handre Pollard landing two conversions.
Pollard opened the second-half scoring with his lone penalty success but Scotland still seemed to be in the contest, however much they required all of their tenacity to do so.
Just as had happened at Nelspruit against the Springboks last June, a yellow card was to cost Scotland at this juncture.
Then it was Jim Hamilton. Today it was Tim Swinson, adjudged by last year’s referee, Romain Poite (in the role of assistant referee today) to have obstructed a home attacker.
During Swinson’s absence South Africa garnered tries four and five through Coetzee and JP Pietersen, while in the final quarter, when Scotland were restored to full complement, Mvovo and Lood de Jager (2) also crossed the whitewash.
Pollard added three conversions and his replacement, fellow debutant Marritz Boshoff, goaled the last try.
South Africa: Willie Le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Lwazi Mvovo; Handre Pollard, Fourie de Preez; Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis Jannie du Plessis, Lood de Jager, Victor Matfield captain, Marcell Coetzee, Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen. Subs (all used): Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Stephan Lewies, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Hougaard, Marritz Boshoff, Zane Kirchner.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland (both Glasgow Warriors), Nick De Luca (Biarritz), Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour; Duncan Weir, Henry Pyrgos (all Glasgow Warriors); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh Rugby), Geoff Cross (London Irish), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) captain, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe (all Glasgow Warriors).
Subs: Tyrone Holmes (Glasgow Warriors) for Fusaro (49 mins), Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors) for Cross (50 mins), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby) for Maitland (52 mins), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) for Swinson and Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors) for Ford (both 60 mins), Peter Murchie (Glasgow Warriors) for Hogg (65 mins), Grayson Hart (Edinburgh Rugby) for Pyrgos (75 mins) and Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs) for Dickinson (78 mins).
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)