Despite dominating possession and territory in the second half, Scotland couldn’t breakdown a defensively solid South Africa at Murrayfield, losing out 10-21 in the second of three EMC Tests.
Two tries from the Sprinboks hooker, Adriaan Strauss, either side of half-time and the boot of fly-half Patrick Lambie were enough to seal the win, with Henry Pyrgos going over for Scotland’s only score of the game.
Scotland head coach, Andy Robinson, said afterwards: “What happened in the first thirty minutes was hugely frustrating. We went in with a plan and it was not effective enough. Last week, against New Zealand, we faced speed. This week we faced physicality. It showed the gulf of where we are.”
Commenting on the high penalty count (fifteen in total) against his side, Robinson continued: “It’s something we have to make sure we learn the lessons from, we cannot afford to give penalties away in the way we did.
"What we saw from South Africa today was a masterclass of how to dominate and how to take the sting out of a side.”
The opening quarter saw an exchange of penalties with Lambie putting the visitors ahead after six minutes and Greig Laidlaw leveling the scores a few minutes later.
Lambie reinstated the three point cushion before there was a worrying moment for the Scotland team as Richie Gray was involved in a huge collision as Scotland tried to secure ball deep in their own territory. Although the giant lock was back on his feet, the decision was taken to replace the 22-year-old with the hugely experienced Al Kellock.
The physicality of the South Africans had won top billing in the run-up to this match and even in the early stages the physical confrontation was telling, leading to South Africa’s first try. The hooker Adriaan Strauss the man to emerge from the bottom of the heap after a maul crashed through Scotland's defences. Lambie missed the conversion so the deficit remained eight points.
Scotland had the chance to draw within a score but Laidlaw, unusually, pulled his shot at goal wide, the penalty drifting left of the upright.
Lambie made no error as Scotland were again penalised at the breakdown and despite intense Scottish pressure in the five minutes before half-time, the score remained 3-14 to South Africa.
Six minutes into the second half and Strauss claimed his second try of the day and it couldn’t have been more different than his first touchdown.
Scotland had possession in their own territory and a pass out wide from Mike Blair should have set free the back line but Strauss pinched the ball out of the air and took off from fully 30 metres out with Jim Hamilton on his heels. The Cheetahs front-rower had the edge and was able to dot down under the posts. The simplest of conversions for Lambie taking the score to 3-21 with the majority of the second half to play.
The introduction of Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half seemed to spark Scotland into life with the Glasgow Warriors player injecting pace into the attack.
It was Pyrgos, making only his second appearance for the national side, who breached the defences of the men in gold and green, with a well worked move.
Captain Kelly Brown fed Pyrgos from the top of the lineout and the number 9 was able to carve through the South African defence for his first score for Scotland. Laidlaw made the conversion to close the gap to 11 points.
Scotland dominated the rest of the half and twice, in quick succession, charged down attempted clearances from Lambie and then Ruan Pienaar. The breakthrough was not forthcoming, however, and South Africa survived with a well-drilled, clever defence and their famed physical approach.
Defeat means Scotland are expected to miss out on a place in the world’s top eight come the draw for the Rugby World Cup in December, and would face two of the world’s top eight sides in their pool during the tournament in 2015.
First though, the challenge of taking on Tonga in Aberdeen in the third and final EMC Test (Saturday, November 25, kick-off 3pm).
15: Stuart Hogg
14 Sean Lamont
13 Nick De Luca
12 Matt Scott
11 Tim Visser
10 Greig Laidlaw (Sub, Jackson 68)
9 Mike Blair (Sub, Pyrgos 47 mins)
1 Ryan Grant
2 Ross Ford (Sub, Hall 68)
3 Euan Murray (Sub, Cross 68)
4 Richie Gray (Sub, Kellock 22)
5 Jim Hamilton
6 Kelly Brown (Captain)
7 John Barclay
8 David Denton
16 Dougie Hall
17. Kyle Traynor
18 Geoff Cross
19 Alastair Kellock
20 Stuart McInally
22 Ruaridh Jackson
23 Peter Murchie
15 Zane Kirchner
14 JP Pietersen
13 Juan De Jongh
12 Jean De Villiers (Captain)
11 Francois Hougaard
10 Pat Lambie (Sub, Morne Steyn 73)
9 Ruan Pienaar
1 Gurthro Steenkamp (Sub, H.van der Merwe 61)
2 Adriaan Strauss
3 Jannie Du Plessis (Sub, CJ van der Linde 51)
4 Eben Etzebeth 5 Juandre Kruger (F. van der Merwe)
6 Francois Louw
7 Willem Alberts (Sub, Marcell Coetzee 51)
8 Duane Vermuelen
16. Schalk Brits
17. Heinke van der Merwe
18 CJ van der Linde
19 Flip van der Merwe
20 Marcell Coetzee
21 Morne Steyn
22 Jaco Taute
23 Lwazi Mvovo
Ref: George Clancy
AR1 : John Lacey
AR2: Christophe Berdos
EMC Man of the Match Francois Louw (South Africa)