It was always going to be an arm-wrestle and it wasn’t expected to be easy, but the Springboks nonetheless recorded a creditable 26-20 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday night.
There were times where Rassie Erasmus’ troops looked laboured and unsettled by a more imaginative home side, yet they also showed enough cutting edge to capitalise on their limited opportunities and delivered moments of brilliance on defence and in the collisions to probably prove worthy winners.
Who was the star in this match?
Bok pivot Handre Pollard provided a calming influence and impressed with his ability to break the line, one surge leading to his try. His goal-kicking was once again excellent until he missed two penalties in the 55th and 66th minute.
Indeed, it wasn’t a faultless performance as he also missed a kick to touch in the first half, but given that his most visible contributions also proved crucial to the result, he certainly deserves praise.
Key moments and themes
- Pollard’s presence was felt early as he broke the line and combined superbly with halfback partner Embrose Papier to set up Kriel’s opener. More impressively, the recycling and patience was outstanding.
- In what was to become a bit of a theme, the Scots struck back with their first try by centre Pete Horne even though a suspected forward pass by midfield partner Huw Jones had to be referred by referee Romain Poite. Frustratingly, the Scots exploited a huge amount of space on the blindside after the Bok defence shot out of their line.
- South Africa were reminded that they were dealing with savvy opponents after the Scots caught them totally off-guard with a flat, short line-out that saw flanker Hamish Watson crash over untouched.
- With no tries recorded in a dull second half, much of the drama was confined to a somewhat harsh yellow card shown fullback Willie le Roux. He attempted a leaping intercept, but his left hand looked a bit lazy. Somehow, Le Roux was adjudged to have clapped the pass down intentionally. The decision underlined why Bok supporters have such a low opinion of Poite.
- Scotland fell in the trap of forcing play once they fell behind and, instead of making use of their superior possession, merely undermined their cause through unforced errors. That’s unfortunately, for the Scots, invariably the nature of Test rugby.
Scotland – Tries: Peter Horne, Hamish Watson. Conversions: Greig Laidlaw (2). Penalties: Laidlaw (2).
Springboks – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard. Conversions: Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3), Elton Jantjies.