Boks edge Scottish spoilers
Boks edge Scottish spoilersSHARE
South Africa came from behind to record a hard-earned 30-17 win over a spiteful Scotland in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The outcome of the victory is that the Springboks will meet Samoa in the Final of the four-nations tournament in Pretoria next Saturday.
The game was not the walkover many had expected, but that was largely due to the ugly tactics employed by the Scots – who used every negative trick in the book and were fortunate to have earned just one yellow card.
There are lessons to be learnt from a match such as this.
The first is that rugby is played by two teams each of 15 human beings (with another eight on the replacement bench), not with one team loaded with Supermen.
Second, that desperate situations can lead to desperate measures.
Third, that desperate men can produce a spirit and determination above their ability.
Fourth, that even the most composed teams can be rattled.
Fifth that the application of the laws of the game produces an orderliness in which the game can be played fairly.
The Scots had spirit. They showed it from the start. They harried the Springboks and had them rattled. They tackled with greater aggression and got stuck into the breakdown with greater numbers and aggression, adding to Springbok insecurity.
The Springboks failed really to adapt to a different way of playing at the tackle – expecting opponents to enter from behind the tackle, play on their side of the tackle, release the tackled player whether tackler or his helper and stay on their feet to play they were nonplussed.
Mere penalising did not produce a change of behaviour, nor was it consistent.
The Scots were penalised 10 times at tackles, but it did not change their behaviour.
After the match their captain Greig Laidlaw admitted that that slowing down the Springbok ball was part of their gameplan.
There are legal ways of doing it. The Scottish way was seldom legal!
The Scots also were able to set mauls with greater ease because the Springboks did not fall down or pull the maul down. On the one occasion they got beyond barriers of bodies and reached the Sottish line before being pulled down, they were awarded a penalty try.
All that said, admire the Scots for their eagerness, the way they ran straight and the two excellent tries they scored.
The Springboks, in white instead of olive green, kicked off deep towards the left. The ball bounced and Juandré Kruger was close to scoring. Instead they had a line-out.
They seemed on the brink of an easy victory, but then the Scots took over and the Springboks lost young Arno Botha when he twisted his knee, though not in a tackle. That happened at about three minutes into the game and he was taken off on a stretcher.
Later in the match Peter Horne, who had replaced injured flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson, was also stretchered off, having hurt his knee though not in contact. Jackson went off with his arm in a sling as Ryan Wilson did after him.
For Botha, Siya Kolisi came onto the field to loud and enthusiastic cheers.
The Scots scored first when Marcell Coetzee was penalised at a tackle and Greig Laidlaw goaled. 3-0 after 7 minutes. But then Steyn goaled two penalties against Ryan Wilson at the tackle. The Springboks led 6-3 after 17 minutes.
The Scots soon got the lead back. New cap Tommy Seymour got away from Adriaan Strauss and darted ahead. He chipped and gathered but Bjorn Basson tackled him close to the Springbok line. The Scots went left, bashing at the line with Wilson close. They went left, Le Roux came out of the line as if expecting to be able to intercept and Matt Scott darted back inside, swept past Pienaar and scored at the posts. 10-6 to Scotland after 20 minutes.
A penalty gave the Springboks a five-metre line-out which Spies brought down but the Scots prevented them from getting anywhere. Kolisi broke off and was stopped just short of the line where Wilson was again penalised. Again the Springboks kicked out for a five-metre line-out, but the throw intended for Spies went over the back and was gratefully grabbed by the Scots. Spies had not jumped.
Pienaar sparked the next Scots' attack with a kick downfield from which they counterattacked. Kolisi had a long, sharp run. Those were the main occurrences in the rest of the first half.
The first time a South African was tackled in the second half produced the first turnover of the half and Scots attacked again. New cap Tim Swinson charged ahead and the Scots went left where Bryan Habana got sucked in to the inside man and the pass put Alex Dunbar clear, and he scored in the left corner, whence Laidlaw converted. 17-6 after 43 minutes.
The Springboks seemed to wake up to the realisation that they could lose to this much weakened Scottish side whom the Samoans had beaten. Back they came. Dunbar was penalised for pretty gross obstruction on Habana who was chasing a kick. The Springboks formed a maul and actually got it going till the Scots collapsed it at the line. The referee went off to the posts and awarded a penalty try. 17-13 after 49 minutes.
After the match Laidlaw referred to the yellow card as a turning point in the game. Springboks threw in to Eben Etzebeth at the frond of the line-out. Hamilton managed – illegally – to insert his body between Etzebeth and his team mates. The referee penalised but there was an emotional outburst in which Hamilton shoved his hand into Etzebeth's face. The referee consulted his assistant and the TMO and sent Hamilton to the sin bin where he went in a fury. In his absence the Springboks took the lead.
They won a Scottish line-out, something they had not come even close to doing while Hamilton was there. They went left and despite some knavish tricks kept possession till Le Roux gave JJ Engelbrecht a perfect pass and over the tall centre went for a try. Steyn converted. 20-17 after 56 minutes.
Hamilton did not return, as Alastair Kellock took his place. This was a time of several replacements as South Africa emptied the bench. First came Coenie Oosthuizen, then Trevor Nyakane, Flip van der Merwe, Piet van Zyl and, to the loudest cheers of them all, Bismarck du Plessis.
The Scots had a promising moment or two when Steyn kicked an up-and-under and the Scots counterattacked. Pat Lambie and Jan Serfontein followed soon afterwards and Lambie kicked a penalty. 23-17 with five minutes to go.
Kolisi had another long run and Springboks had an attacking line-out. They went right but the Scots were tenacious till Serfontein bumped his way past two to score near the posts. 30-17 and the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: It was a special match for a special player, proof that South Africa do have and can find talent in the townships. Our award goes to replacement loose forward Siya Kolisi – for his hard graft at tackle time and for his two breaks which were the best of the match.
Moment of the Match: There was the national relief when JJ Engelbrecht scored but our choice is Matt Scott's try starting from Tommy Seymour's evasiveness, chip and gather and the elan with which Matt Scott swept through.
Villain of the Match: One is tempted to name Alasdair Strokosch for being a nuisance of doubtful legality, but it really was Jim Hamilton who went from bad to worse and let his team down when he was yellow carded for attacking the face of Eben Etzebeth.
For South Africa:
Tries: Penalty try, Engelbrecht, Serfontein
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 2, Lambie
Tries: Scott, Dunbar
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Yellow card: Jim Hamilton (Scotland, 51 – foul playing, attacking a player's face)
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 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 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 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 (captain), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Nigel Hennessy (Wales)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)