South Africa stayed on course to complete their year-end tour unbeaten when they recorded a fortuitous 14-10 win over a determined Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, on Saturday.
“We will be ready,” Frank Hadden, the Scottish coach proclaimed before the match. The Scots were ready all right – ready and able. In the end, as with Wales last weekend, they could have won but good sides have the ability to keep on winning even when they are not playing well.
And the Springboks did not play well in the first half. They were slovenly and uncohesive and they made mistakes. In that half they conceded eight penalties, all of them tackle-related. They clearly were at loggerheads with the referee and the brave, cohesive, determined, confrontational Scots deserved their 10-0 lead at the break.
Indeed they could have been further ahead had Dan Parks not missed two kicks at goal. Add another two kicks missed in the second half and the Scots could certainly have won.
As it was they attacked in brilliant and thrilling fashion ten minutes of the match. That their crests fell low at the final whistle is understandable after so much effort of mind, heart and sinew.
Rugby 365 reports that after the match Juan Smith said that once the Springboks returned to their structures things went better. They went better. They attacked, the Scots were penalised and they won the half 14-0.
Both sides lost important players early on. Bismarck du Plessis went off after just four minutes, causing John Smith to swap back to hooker. The Scots lost Chris Paterson soon afterwards when he and Juan Smith clashed heads. Then Phil Godman went off for blood and that was where Parks came on to miss two straightforward kicks, one of them easy.
This happened at a time when the Scots were winning the collision in every way and were well on top.
But the Springboks came back with pick-’n-drive and Tonderai Mtawarira had Murrayfield growling Beast as he came to a metre from the line, winning a five-metre scrum for the Springboks, but the scrum did not even go down as the referee awarded Scotland a free kick because the Springboks had “stepped across”.
They had only four scrums in the match, three five metres from the Scottish line.
On 27 minutes Godman goaled a penalty when Mtawarira was penalised for coming in at the side, and then the Scots attacked again. They had aline-out eight metres from the Springbok line and bashed but the resilient Springboks contained them comfortably.
There were other good moments – speedy Thom Evans on the counter, Jean de Villiers racing down the left from a quickly taken drop-out and Pietersen tackled two metres from the line where Burger and De Villiers were penalised for going low in their clean-out.
Then the Scots got serious. Godman went darting on a break and only a great tackle by Pierre Spies stopped him, but the Scots were again battering at the line and this time Nathan Hines got over next to the right upright. Godman converted.
The Springboks were close to scoring in the second half when, man on man, De Villiers broke clean through but in passing infield to Juan Smith he put a foot in touch as Hugo Southwell tackled him.
But John Barclay was offside and Allan Jacobsen dived in at a tackle and Pienaar goaled twice to make it 10-6. The Springboks were playing much better.
Jaque Fourie replaced Bryan Habana early in the half and his try put the Springboks in the lead. They used quick ball and brilliant passing by Adi Jacobs, JP Pietersen and De Villiers to give Fourie a sniff of the line and he dived for the corner as Southwell tackled him. The TMO’s advice was that he had scored. 11-10 to South Africa.
When Hines went off, Pienaar goaled with a fine kick to make it 14-10 with 15 minutes to go.
The best of those 15 minutes belonged to Scotland though first South Africa – rarely – counterattacked and only a great tackle by Rory Lamont on long-striding Andries Bekker kept the Springboks out,.
Then Godman got the ball behind his own line and did a dither. He dithered and then suddenly passed and from there the Scots launched a wonderful attack, the best of it Ali Hogg’s run down the right till Fourie back-tackled him. Blair and Ben Cairns carried it on as the Scots continued their multiphased onslaught. They chipped to the line and the ball bounced high but Jantjes saved.
The Scots had a penalty close in, just to the right of the upright with seven minutes to play and decided to kick at goal. Inexplicably Godman missed. He missed to the right by quite some way.
But Scottish heads came up and they attacked again with a great run buy prop Alasdair Dickinson. Fourie was blown for a knock-on and the Scots had a vital scrum. Blair tapped and Godman darted close. They had a five-metre scrum and went right with an organised move but Jacobs caught and turned Cairns who held on. The Springboks cleared but back came the eager Scots. Jantjes saved with a diving mark and kicked out with 13 seconds to play.
As in Cardiff the week before, the Springboks won the ball. Januarie asked the referee if time was up. The referee said Yes. Januarie asked again. Again the referee said Yes. Januarie kicked the ball into touch.
Man of the Match: There were wonderful performances from several Scots – Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Jim Hamilton, Ben Blair and Phil Godman among them. The Springboks enjoyed a much improved performance by Pierre Spies and super perfomances from Schalk Burger, JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs and Jean de Villiers. But for the Springboks Juan Smith stood out in his best match of the year and for the Scots it was their No.8 Ali Hogg on both attack and defence just edging our vote as Man of the Match for his great run late in the match.
Moment of the Match: The Scot attack that started behind their own posts.
Villain of the Match: Nobody.
For South Africa:
Pens: Pienaar 3
Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Thom Evans, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Rory Lamont, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair (captain), 8 Alistair Hogg, 7 John Barclay, 6 Jason White, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Matt Mustchin, 19 Scott Gray, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Hugo Southwell
South Africa: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Brian Mujati, 17 Gürthro Steenkamp, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Jaque Fourie.