18 November 2013
The Springboks turned in a dominant first-half performance and used a stubborn, physical defence in the second half to beat Scotland 28-0, scoring four tries to nil at Murrayfield on Sunday evening.
“We will take four tries to nil in a test match any day of the week and I thought we produced a good performance in this match,” coach Heyneke Meyer said afterwards.
“We knew what to expect from Scotland. They are physical and hard, and we knew they would have worked at halting our driving, so I must give credit to our forwards coach Johann van Graan for the way he changed our drive set-ups.”
Evolution and improvement
The evolution and improvement of the South African team this season was evident in the inevitability of the outcome of the contest against a team that has in recent times provided the Boks with some difficult games, including a tough 30-17 win earlier this year in Nelspruit and a 17-21 loss in 2010 at Murrayfield.
Such was the Springboks’ control of the match that a boisterous crowd before the test became extremely subdued only minutes into it.
Coach Meyer would surely have been most pleased by the fact that his charges made their opportunities count.
They twice had lineouts five metres from the Scottish try line and turned both into tries.
The first came within the opening five minutes after the Springboks had laid siege to the ball and taken it through phase after phase before winning a penalty which Patrick Lambie kicked for the corner. Willem Alberts then crashed over for a try.
The second came from the sole chance the Boks had in the second half and they once again blasted through the Scottish lineout defence for Coenie Oosthuizen to score their fourth try of the contest. The throw-in had been earned after strong defence turned into attack and a pinpoint downfield kick by Bryan Habana forced the Scots to hack the ball into touch, with Jaque Fourie applying the pressure.
Scotland struggled to win lineout ball in the first half and that contributed hugely to the South African dominance.
“The line-out was another area we worked hard on, and it paid off with our performance in that phase in the first half,” coach Meyer commented. “Unfortunately we didn’t get much ball from the lineouts later in the game when it was wet, which was frustrating.”
Fullback Willie le Roux continued to enhance his reputation and proved again that he could be effective in the heavier conditions of the northern hemisphere by scoring one and creating another try.
Le Roux’s five-pointer put an end to the Scots’ first concerted attack of the first half when he intercepted a pass and raced 70 metres to score under the uprights.
Shortly after that, Le Roux broke through the Scottish backline, sidestepped a defender and then, with a final defender in his way, picked out JP Pietersen, playing in his 50th test, with a beautiful, kick out wide to the left where Pietersen gathered the ball and slid across the line for a superb try.
Lock Richie Gray was in the Scottish line-up on Sunday, but the value of Richie Gray, the Boks’ Scottish breakdown coach, was evident in the South African performance. They totally controlled the breakdowns in the first half, easily holding onto possession, while in the second half they slowed down Scottish ball and forced the hosts backwards time after time. Contrast this with the first meeting of the teams in Nelspruit in June, when the Scottish loose forwards made hay, and the difference is night and day.
Jaque Fourie, playing only his second test since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, was superb in marshalling the Springboks’ backline defence. The Scots were repeatedly forced to cut back inside to try and force open a gap by the South Africans’ umbrella defence and almost every time they did that the ball carrier was met by two tacklers.
“I wanted to work on our defence, and the fact that we kept the Scots to no points is pleasing,” said Meyer.
“We have now scored seven tries on this tour and the opposition hasn’t crossed our line. That is a tribute to both our organisation and our attitude.”
Further evidence of South Africa’s improvement was the smooth transition the team made after Meyer sent on a host of replacements in the second half.
In the past this would inevitably have resulted in more fractured play for the Boks, but that has not been the case this season. The transitions have been smooth and those coming on have made an impact, indicating that the entire squad is contributing meaningfully to the Springboks’ success.
South Africa’s final test of their tour takes place against France at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday evening.