Boks entrenched at No.2 on the IRB rankings
Hooker and vice-captain Adriaan Strauss scored two tries as South Africa beat Scotland 21-10 in a dour arm-wrestle at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Springboks, it seems, are a one-half team. Last week, against Ireland, they were abysmal in the first half and won the second half. This week they won the first half and did nothing but tackle in the second half.
But what tackling! It was brilliant again and again. The game is about attack and defence. The Springboks did not attack but, heavens, they defended and their defence beat the Scottish attack hands down. Were it not the case they would have had a hiding as Scotland took almost total possession of the last half-an-hour. Almost, for in that period of dominance they did not score a single point. The Springboks were down to 14 men, the Scots were on their line and still the Scots did not score.
Tackling was not the whole story. There was also the victory on the ground - the turnovers, which, sadly, were put only to defensive use.
The Springboks scored two tries to one, one try from a line-out maul and the other from an intercept. For the rest there was nothing creative about their play. Juan de Jongh got the ball twice, did clever things with his feet twice, but that was his lot. The wings, JP Pietersen and François Hougaard, did not get a single pass from a backline movement. Not one. And the fullback does not play in any position where he could get a pass. On one occasion the Springboks went through promising phases and the ball came to Zane Kirchner who kicked a meaningless kick and the Springboks were back defending again. Surely a kick should not be an attacking opportunity for your opponents. Surely.
The Scots looked disappointed at the end and well they might have. They got ball and opportunities galore but their creativity and incisiveness wasted them. The worst moment of the match was a chip into ingoal by replacement flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson.
When the Springboks played Ireland, they conceded 11 penalties in their abysmal half. In their abysmal half this time, the penalty count was 9-2 against them and there was a yellow card. Three of those penalties were at scrums when CJ van der Linde was on for Jannie du Plessis and playing tighthead, where last week he was a loosehead. In the first half the Springboks had dominated the scrums; not so after the change of the whole front row with Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe and CJ van der Linde.
In the first half the Springboks were calm and built a winning platform, ending the half leading 14-3. Their only addition to that score was an intercept try early in the second half. There was no glamorous building at all. In the first half it looked that creativity would be possible. After all the first time Pat Lambie got the ball he kicked a diagonal to JP Pietersen out on the right wing. The Springboks turned a kickable penalty into a five-metre line-out but the referee penalised them for obstruction.
Kelly Brown was penalised at a tackle and Lambie goaled. 3-0 after 6 minutes. Willem Alberts was penalised at a tackle. 3-3 after 10 minutes. Greig Laidlaw was penalised for coming up too early at a line-out. 6-3 after 13 minutes with the Springboks well on top in every phase of play.
They turned a penalty into a line-out 10 metres out, mauled off Juandré Kruger and Adriaan Strauss scored. The Scots decided that the appropriate counter to a maul from a line-out was to stand off. It had worked for them earlier when the Springboks were penalised for obstruction. This time their stand-off proved suicidal. 11-3 after 21 minutes.
Francois Louw had a bullocking run to set the Springboks on the attack, Kelly Brown was penalised and Lambie goaled. 14-3 after 31 minutes.
The 56 000 crowd were excited when a penalty gave Scotland a line-out six metres out. They won it and bashed without looking like scoring and in the end were penalised.
The Springbok try early in the second half could have knocked the stuffing out of the Scots. They got the ball from a tackle, Mike Blair did some across-field stepping and then floated a high pass. Strauss put up a right hand, caught the bobbling ball and ran 42 metres for a try at the posts. He was not sure he was legal and the Scots ware sure he wasn't but the try stood. 21-3 after 47 minutes. The Springboks did not score in the remaining 33 minutes of the match.
Scotland did - a cleverly worked try. In this half they had four five-metre line-outs. At this one they threw deep to Kelly Brown who was over the 15-metre line. The line-out split into two pods and from his majestic height Brown played down to replacement scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos who sped through a gap between the two pods and scored. Blink and you would have missed it. 21-10 after 51 minutes.
The score had a wonderful effect on the scots. Their spirits rose, their efforts increased, they became a team hungry for victory.
They were close many times, bashing away. David Denton got close more than once. On one occasion it was just a great tackle by Morné Steyn that stopped him. Once they threw in skew to a five-metre line-out. They had a five-metre scrum, and still they did not score.
Eventually the Springboks broke out off a turnover but in turn wasted a real opportunity when Ruan Pienaar kicked the ball away. They had a penalty with the 80 minutes up and opted to tap the ball out to end the match.
Man of the Match: Jean de Villiers was full of energy, Adriaan Strauss was excellent but our man of the match is Francois Louw who tackled, ran with the ball and won telling turnovers.
Moment of the Match: Henry Pyrgos' try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody.
For South Africa:
Tries: Strauss 2
Pens: Lambie 3
Yellow card: Flip van der Merwe (South Africa, 77 - repeated offences at the breakdown)
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown (captain), 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Henry Pygros, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Peter Murchie, 23 Stuart McInally.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 François Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Christophe Berdos (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)