Boks hold on for nervy win
MATCH REPORT: South Africa held on in the face of a determined Scottish second-half onslaught to win their second match of the year-end tour.
The Springboks scored two tries inside the first quarter, while Scotland with two of their own as the Boks won 26-20 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
After last weekend’s flat beer, the first half of this match was sparkling champagne. The second half, won 6-3, by South Africa was tense because of the closeness of the score, not because of its creativity and skill. It was a tough man’s slog.
The half-time score was 20-17 to South Africa, after a half with three thrilling tries and clever one. There were no tries in the second half. The Springboks kept control of the ball at the end and when 80 came up on the clock, Elton Jantjies booted the ball over the touchline on his left. The final whistle relieved the pressure.
The Scots must take great happiness from the magnificent performance of Stuart Hogg, back from injury and at his exciting best – till, worryingly, he went off late in the match with what looked like an injury, possibly to his ankle. Chris Harris took his place with Sean Maitland moving to fullback.
The Springboks must been happy with the performance of their novice scrumhalf, Embrose Papier, 21 years of age and starting for the first time. One poor and one iffish kick aside, he had a great match and played an excellent part in the Springboks first try.
The Scottish forwards were initially fierce in the protection of their ball at tackles, but this rather fell away and the South Africans won several telling turnovers. There was no sign of the expected Springbok scrum dominance, By and large, the Scots held their own, even though they were penalised twice at scrum to the once of the Springboks.
The Springboks scored four penalty goals and missed two attempts, one of which hit an upright. The Scots scored two penalty goals and missed one attempt at a goal, a drop by Finn Russell that only just missed.
It was an even encounter.
The Springboks scored first and it was a thrilling try. From a line-out on the left, Handré Pollard broke. Challenged, he passed inside to Papier who raced away and then passed to RG Snyman on his right. The lock gave to prop Steven Kitshoff who offloaded to Sibu Nkosi who was tackled near the right corner. The ball came back to Papier who gave it to a charging Jesse Kriel who scored. 7-0 after 7 minutes.
The first Scottish try was also a thriller. It started from a scrum on their left. They went messily wide right and then came back left where they had an overlap. Huw Jones flicked a pass to Sean Maitland and the left wing raced ahead. Challenged, he passed inside to Jones who made fast ground and got an underarm flick to Peter Horne who scored. 7-all after 19 minutes.
The Springboks were quickly back in the lead. The Scots tried running in their own 22. Siya Kolisi won a turnover and the ball went wide right where Pollard threw a convincing dummy and raced over to score. 14-7 after 21 minutes.
Pollard and Laidlaw goaled penalties and then two bad bits of play by the Springboks brought the Scots onto even terms.
First Pollard failed to kick a penalty out and Hogg countered. He booted the ball out near the Springbok 22. The Springboks won the line-out and Papier kicked his iffish kick. Hogg got the ball and raced downfield past defenders who looked like stationary dummies. He chipped, and Willie le Roux came across to flykick the ball into touch for a five-metre line-out to Scotland. Their number one in the line-out moved closer to the touchline and number two backpedalled. Stuart McInally threw into the widening gap and Hamish Watson came racing into the gap, caught the ball and surged over for the try. 17-all after 34 minutes.
Just before half-time, WP Nel was penalised at a scrum, and again Pollard goaled. 20-17 to the Springboks at the break.
During the break, the magnificent Doddy Weir, once a Scottish lock but now a sufferer from motor neurone disease told the crowd about his foundation to help fellow-suffers.
The second half started terribly for the Springboks. Le Roux went to intercept a high pass and knocked the ball on. The referee was about to give a scrum but on the TMO’s advice, the incident was examined and Le Roux was penalised and sent to the sin bin. Many people were flabbergasted by the decision which is likely to be another point of controversy in this November tests.
Laidlaw goaled the subsequent penalty and the Scots were back on level terms at 20-20 after 45 minutes.
The Springboks went through phases till Malcolm Marx knocked on. But the referee had been playing advantage and Pollard kicked the penalty goal that made the score 23-20 after 49 minutes.
Both teams started making substitutes, Pollard missed two kicks at goal and Jones had a magnificent run of some 50 metres. The Scots kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out but the Springboks withstood their maul and won a scrum.
Russell dropped for goal and just missed the right upright.
With 9 minutes to play. Elton Jantjies, who had replaced Damian de Allende,. goaled a penalty against Adam Hastings, son of the great Gavin. 26-20, which became the final score when Jantjies kicked the ball into the crowd and the referee blew the final whistle.
Man of the Match: There were candidates – Hamish Watson, Huw Jones and the halfbacks, Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, of Scotland and Handré Pollard and Embrose Papier, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sya Kolisi and powerful, fearless Duane Vermeulen of South Africa.. But our choice is Stuart Hogg, so skilled, so talented, so fast, so brave and with such vision.
Moment of the Match: Hamish Watson’s try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody, certainly not Willie le Roux.
Tries: Horne, Watson
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw 2
For South Africa:
Tries: Kriel, Pollard
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 3, Jantjies
Yellow card: Willie le Roux (South Africa, 45 – cynical foul, deliberate knock-on)
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Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)