Outclassed Scotland come up well short
November 17, 2013
Willem Alberts is congratulated after scoring the first try
© Getty Images
Three first-half tries put South Africa on course for an easy victory over Scotland at Murrayfield, and although a better second-half performance from the home side prevented what at one stage seemed a possible rout it could not paper over the gulf between the sides.
On a pitch that was unfit for international rugby, Scotland, who did not get into the South African 22 until the 36th minute, were hit from the off by a sustained onslaught and when flanker Willem Alberts bulldozed through after four minutes for the opening score the omens were not good.
Despite some determined defence things only got worse for the hosts who simply lacked the basic skills to take on the world's No. 2-ranked team. Ruaridh Jackson's slip let in Willie Le Roux for a second on 29 minutes before the fullback played in JP Pietersen for a third a minute later to leave Scotland trailing 21-0 after Pat Lambie converted all three scorers.
Another Jackson error soon saw South Africa run in a fourth try 13 minutes after the break as replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen barged over from a line-out to complete a resounding defeat for Scott Johnson's men.
It was a far cry from the sides' last meeting in June, when Scotland were beaten but not unbowed as they went down 30-17 having led by 11 points early in the second half. That Nelspruit collapse was sparked by Jim Hamilton's needless yellow card and discipline was the order of the day as Johnson sent out his Dark Blues side to a sorry Murrayfield pitch weakened by a parasitic bug.
The breakdown was an area in particular where controlled aggression would be required, especially with the visitors recalling Toulon's Heineken Cup-winning lock Bakkies Botha to their second row after a two-year absence. But that control lasted just three minutes.
After absorbing some early pressure, Nick De Luca suffered a rush of blood to the head as he illegally dived into a ruck from the side to concede a penalty which the Springboks put out for a line-out inside the Scots' five-yard line. Hooker Adrian Strauss hit his mark from the set-piece and Alberts barged his way over for the opening score. Fly-half Lambie did the necessary with the conversion to hand the visitors the perfect start.
Scotland were having to defend for their lives and the tackle count soon read 41-5 in their favour after little more than 10 minutes. Lambie missed with his first penalty attempt after a quarter of an hour but the traffic continued to go in one direction only.
Having survived further losses, Scotland looked like they were finally ready to march forward. But after two phases of promising stuff Jackson lobbed the ball into Le Roux's grasp for the full-back to run in a 50-yard touchdown. Lambie added the extras but before the Dark Blues had even got their breath back 14-0 became 21-0.
Another slip in midfield saw Le Roux get his hands on the ball in the danger zone but this time he booted a clever kick into the corner for Pietersen to slide home a third try, converted again by Lambie.
Stand-in skipper Greig Laidlaw had said before the game that his side were capable of competing against the top Southern Hemisphere nations but that claim was quickly unravelling. On the few occasions on which the Dark Blues did manage to gain territory, if basic errors did not let them down, a lack of inspiration ultimately cost them against a thoroughly well-drilled opposition.
A classic example came 11 minutes into the second half just as Scotland were gaining ground towards the Springboks' 22 when another wild pass from Jackson handed possession to the visitors who kicked upfield, forcing Sean Maitland to boot the loose ball into touch just a yard from the scoreline. Yet again mistakes proved costly as replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen profited from the resulting line-out to barge over for another score, while Lambie converted again.
It was no surprise that Jackson's errors at fly-half soon became too much for Johnson, who replaced him with Duncan Weir. Johnnie Gray was the next man to join the action for the home side but the Glasgow lock was denied the chance of lining up beside his brother Richie for his first cap as the British and Irish Lion was the man selected to make way.
The visitors were forced to play out the remaining 10 minutes with 14 men after losing replacement flanker Marcell Coetzee to the sinbin after irking French referee Jerome Garces with his persistent infringements.
But there was still time for the home side to suffer one last kick in the teeth when Max Evans was denied a late consolation try after Bryan Habana got a hand to Weir's grubber kick.
Coenie Oosthuizen scores South Africa's fourth try © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league