Rugby Union: Northern lights brave a Bok-lash

Scottish resistance is finally broken as South Africa's easily secured tries create a false sense of security
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Scotland 10 South Africa 35

Try: Hodge Tries: Terblanche, Van der

Westhuizen, Snyman, Rossouw, Skinstad

Con: Hodge Con: Montgomery 2 Pen: Hodge Pens: Montgomery 2

Half-time: 7-11 Attendance: 35,000

WITHOUT suggesting that they would ever come as close to victory as Wales did at Wembley last week, the Scots did at least attempt to play their part in the general rehabilitation of the game in the Northern Hemisphere at Murrayfield yesterday.

After two internationals in successive weeks and having gone halfway to achieving their goal of the Grand Slam, the Springboks have been taken all the way twice, and either the game in this part of the world is in a little better health than we imagined or else the Springboks are not the side we thought they were.

It is, most probably, a bit of both. There is no question that the tourists are looking decidedly jaded. They seem, as yet, incapable of playing with the degree of accuracy and the breakneck speed which has elevated them to the top of the world rankings this year, and their forwards are lacking the cutting thrust which has been their trademark since winning the World Cup three years ago.

For the second week in a row they played for the first half-hour in the shadow of their opponents. In fact for most of that time at Murrayfield yesterday they scarcely saw the ball, and when they did manage to secure it, more often than not they proceeded to give it back to the grateful, if somewhat bemused Scots.

With a little more composure and confidence the Scots would certainly have reached half-time with more behind them than Duncan Hodge's fine try. Like the Welsh the week before, the Scots lost no opportunity to counter-attack, their running sharpened by the early appearance of Gregor Townsend at full-back as a replacement for the unfortunate Derrick Lee, who was carried off on a stretcher after making a couple of spirited runs in the opening exchanges.

Even when they were retreating, and with their three-quarters aligned in a steeply banked formation, which happened too often for comfort, the Scots were invariably able to re-group and remount their attacks. Fatigue is the only possible explanation in defence of these Springboks. Even their quicksilver breakaway Bobby Skinstad seemed unable to energise his colleagues.

The Scots, for their part, yielded nothing in the set-piece despite their disadvantage in height and weight. Scott Murray, a positive beanpole set against his opposite numbers, had a marvellous match pounding all over the field, winning line-out ball, clearing up in the loose and generally making a thorough nuisance of himself behind South African lines. Until they tired in the latter stages the back row too played their full part in unsettling the Springboks and it was from Eric Peters' drive from a line-out that Hodge, cleverly changing the angle of his run, slipped past Christian Stewart's token tackle to score by the posts.

Hodge who, for the most part, played tidily and without fuss at fly-half, converted and the Scots, as their play had demanded, took the lead. The Springboks' only score to this point had been a penalty by Percy Montgomery. Given their lack of possession and their inability to gain a foothold in Scottish territory it was quite remarkable that they should have even managed that. Yet for all their difficulties and visible discomfort, the danger of the tourists suddenly pulling themselves together was ever present.

Their tackling had been witheringly accurate and Lee was not the only Scot to have the stuffing knocked out of him. As the first half drew to its close the Springboks menacingly increased their momentum. Montgomery kicked his second penalty before Henry Honiball, who has the kick of a mule and the tackle of a charging rhino but who has still to convince as a top class fly-half, fed Johan Erasmus who sent Stefan Terblanche through a gap for the Springboks' first try.

The Scots came out fighting at the start of the second half but failed crucially to cover their rear adequately. Alan Tait, a lively runner on the right wing, made ground up to the half-way line, where he was brought down by Pieter Rossouw. With all 15 Scots committed to the attack Joost van der Westhuizen, who had until this point been ominously subdued, plucked the ball out of the wreckage and made off with it unhindered and unopposed for the Scottish line. It was the cruellest of blows and a lesson in the need for constant vigilance against opponents of this calibre.

After this the fight went out of the Scots. Their spirits sank and the three Springbok tries which followed were too easily secured and created a false impression of superiority.

First Andre Snyman broke through a slack defence and then Honiball charged down Hodge's clearing kick into Rossouw's hands for the winger's 17th try in his 21 internationals. If the Scots could justifiably feel aggrieved at that piece of outrageous misfortune they were at least spared when Skinstad broke clear with Terblanche outside him. Having drawn Townsend the try seemed a formality but Skinstad chose to go on his own. Half tackled, he regained his balance and merely needed a touch on the accelerator to score himself. Instead he compounded his original felony by passing to Andre Venter, who was brought down a yard short by Kenny Logan. Skinstad did make amends in the final seconds, scoring the Springboks' fifth try in front of a disappointingly small crowd who, like their team, had by this time taken enough punishment.

Scotland: D Lee (London Scottish); A Tait (Edinburgh Reivers), J Mayer (Edinburgh Reivers), J Leslie (Glasgow Caledonians), C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), D Hodge (Edinburgh Reivers), B Redpath (Edinburgh Reivers, captain); T Smith (Glasgow Caledonians), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (London Scottish), S Murray (Bedford), D Weir (Newcastle), P Walton (Newcastle), E Peters (Bath), B Pountney (Northampton). Replacements: G Townsend (Brive) for Lee, 16; M Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers) for Walton, 50; D Hilton (bath) for Garvey, 54; K Logan (Wasps) for Tait 70; G Armstrong (Newcastle) for Redpath 76.

South Africa: P Montgomery (Western Province); S Terblanche (Boland), A Snyman (Blue Bulls), C Stewart (Western Province), P Rossouw (Western Province); H Honiball (Natal), J van der Westhuizen (Blue Bulls); R Kempson (Natal), J Dalton (Golden Lions), A Garvey (Natal), K Otto (Blue Bulls), M Andrews (Natal), J Erasmus (Free State), G Teichmann (Natal, captain), B Skinstad (Western Province). Replacements: O Le Roux (Natal) for Garvey, 50; A Venter (Free State) for Otto, 54.

Referee: C White (England)