Boks show true colours to end tour in style

Scotland 10 South Africa 45
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The Independent Online

In first-half injury time here yesterday, South Africa were a team without any locks. It made precious little difference. Before Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha had departed to the sin-bin, the Springboks had already bolted through an open Scottish door.

In first-half injury time here yesterday, South Africa were a team without any locks. It made precious little difference. Before Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha had departed to the sin-bin, the Springboks had already bolted through an open Scottish door.

With Schalk Burger firmly ensconsed in the back row - the back row of the west stand - and six other first-choice Boks also sitting in the pitch-side wings, Scotland had set out with high hopes of emulating their 2002 success against a similarly experimental South African XV. Having left their defence not so much ajar as gaping wide apart, though, by the 31st minute they were crashing to terra firma with a jolt.

At that stage, Matt Williams' men were three tries and 22 points down. Even their temporary numerical advantage in personnel did not help. Indeed, by the final whistle, the gap had stretched to 35 points.

The Springboks might not have had their Burger on the menu, but they were still far too tasty for their generous hosts. There was a try for the debutant Solly Tybilika and two for Bryan Habana on his first start for his country, both of those gift-wrapped in tartan for the flying left wing. There was also a hat-trick of dropped goals for Jaco van der Westhuyzen, who dug in his claws with the fifth Springbok try in injury time.

"I must give credit to the players who came in," Jake White, the Springbok coach, reflected. "They raised the intensity and showed they want to be part of the team in the 2007 World Cup."

As for the Scots, it was an unfortunate drift in the backward direction. "We didn't perform, and that's unforgivable," Williams lamented. "We lost our composure early on and we didn't regain it until the game was lost."

Scotland might have shown signs of progress in their two defeats against Australia but they have won just two of the 12 matches they have contested under their Australian coach - against Samoa and Japan. They were whitewashed in the Six Nations and have not won at Murrayfield in a forgettable 2004. Their first match of 2005 is away from home - against the defending Six Nations' champions in the Stade de France.

In all, there were seven changes to the Springboks but rom the start it was Scotland who looked in disarray. They were fortunate that Percy Montgomery missed a sitter with just 98 seconds on the clock, but the adopted man of Gwent did not have to wait long for the chance to atone.

With South Africa's first serious attack, Jacque Fourie took a crash ball from Joe van Niekerk and cut through a thin blue defensive line on the right. The towering wing did have to fend off Sean Lamont and Chris Cusiter as he dived for the corner but, despite the clinging attentions and a two minute consulation with the video referee, it was clearly a valid score. This time Montgomery made no mistake, converting from the touchline.

For Scotland, it was bad enough losing seven points in the opening seven minutes, but they then lost their brightest spark, Cusiter succumbing to concussion, and swiftly conceded another score. From the back of a ruck five metres out, Tybilika could see a clear path to the line and the flanker needed no invitation to take it.

Montgomery missed the conversion and then Fourie spilled the ball within sight of the line but they were small mercies for Scotland. Though Chris Paterson put three points on the board just before the half-hour, Van der Westhuyzen landed two dropped goals, the second of them from just inside halfway. Then, in a surreal conclusion to the first-half, Habana gratefully accepted the first of his gifts, gathering a loose pass and galloping 40m to the line.

With Montgomery's conversion, that made it 25-3 to South Africa, with 31 minutes gone. It looked like a buffer the tourists might need when first Matfield and then Botha were yellow carded, having been deemed guilty of, respectively, deliberate obstruction and knocking the ball from the hands of an opposition player as he prepared to take a tap penalty.

Two forwards down, the Springboks conceded a penalty try for collapsing a scrum. But then Habana snaffled another wild throw and raced fully 70m to claim his second try. By the time Matfield and Botha returned, 10 minutes into the second-half, the lead had stretched to 35-10, courtesy of a Montgomery penalty. It might have been worse but Paterson forced Guthro Steenkamp fractionally into touch, denying the prop a try.

The Springboks had to wait until injury time for their fifth and final try. Van der Westhuyzen, having completed his trio of dropped goals, wagged his index finger in celebration as he finished off a text-book move.

The signal was loud and clear. For the Boks, it was back to the future. For the Scots, it's back to the drawing board.

Scotland: H Southwell (Edinburgh Rugby); C Paterson (Edinburgh Rugby), B Hinshelwood (Worcester), A Henderson (Glasgow Rugby), S Lamont (Glasgow Rugby); D Parks (Glasgow Rugby), C Cusiter (The Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby), G Bulloch (Glasgow Rugby), G Kerr (Leeds Tykes), S Grimes (Newcastle Falcons), N Hines (Edinburgh Rugby), J White (Sale Sharks), A Hogg (Edinburgh Rugby), D Macfadyen (Glasgow Rugby). Replacements: G Morrison (Glasgow Rugby) for Southwell 77, G Ross (Leeds Tykes) for Parks 57, M Blair (Edinburgh Rugby) for Cusiter 14, R Russell (London Irish) for Bulloch, 77, B Douglas (The Borders) for Kerr 60, S MacLeod (The Borders) for Hines 20, J Petrie (Glasgow Rugby) for White 57.

South Africa: P Montgomery (Stormers), J Fourie (Lions), M Joubert (Stormers), W Julies (Stormers), B Habana (Bulls); J van der Westhuyzen (NEC Japan), F du Preez (Bulls); G Steenkamp (Bulls), J Smit (Sharks, capt), CJ van der Linde (Stormers), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Tyibilika (Sharks), D Rossouw (Bulls), J van Niekerk (Stormers). Replacements: G du Toit (Stormers) for Joubert 75, G Bobo (Sharks) for Julies 78, M Claassens (Free State) for Du Preez 75, O du Randt (Free State) for Steenkamp 58, D Coetzee (Bulls) for Smit 78, G Britz (Bulls) for Matfield 65.

Referee: N Williams (Wales).

Scotland make revenge mission easy

Hapless home side no longer recognisable as true international force. Peter Bills reports

South Africa gained comprehensive revenge for their defeat at Murrayfield two years ago when they returned to the scene of their humiliation to score 32 points by half-time - most of them gifted by Scotland. The Springboks have had their difficulties on this tour but accepting this kind of generosity was no sort of problem at all for Jake White's men.

The Springboks were devastating in making the Scotland coach, Matt Williams, eat his words. Williams had claimed during the week that there was really little between his team and the best in the world.

But the way South Africa brutally exposed Scotland's failings at international level, was a reminder of the potential of these Springboks. The wing Bryan Habana took his brace of interception tries with rocketing pace but he contributed mightily in other respects, showing a tremendous determination in his tackling.

Seven days earlier at Twickenham, White had said it was men against boys as England hammered the Springboks. If that was so, this was boys against toddlers. Old Rubberduckians' thirds would have given the hapless Scots as much of a game.

Two things changed the picture for South Africa from their Twickenham failure. Their scrum was this time on the front foot, offering the half-backs, Fourie du Preez and Jaco van der Westhuyzen, a proper platform from which to control the entire match.

Both played superbly, but Van der Westhuyzen rightly won the man of the match award for a splendid display. His three superbly struck drop goals were wounding blows to Scotland hearts. He tormented the shaky home defence with precision kicks to touch which made vast distances and finished off an immaculate performance with a 75th-minute try, from the substitute Michael Claassens' searing break off the back of a line-out.

Nothing better illustrated a pathetic Scottish performance than the fact that South Africa scored 10 unanswered points either side of half-time, when the Springboks were down to 13 men. Both locks, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, were sent to the sin-bin almost at the same time, yet far from capitalising, Scotland conceded a converted try and penalty. The first came from Habana's second interception score, the latter from Scottish hands in the ruck.

Not that the South Africans were beyond criticism. They conceded an extraordinary 15 penalties, many for not joining the rucks and mauls from behind the rear feet or for going off their feet at the breakdown. Such technical infringements would have been punished by any high-quality international side. But Scotland have declined so far that they were unrecognisable as a true international force. Where their rugby goes from here is anyone's guess.

The Springboks will be relieved that the British segment of their tour ended on a positive note. Several players stood up to be counted, as White had hoped they would. The new cap Solly Tybilika had a fine debut on the flank, foraging tirelessly and scoring an early try with a classic, low body position for a drive over the Scottish line. The wing Jacque Fourie scored his team's first try with a superb example of composure and strength under heavy pressure and Habana was outstanding. The flanker Danie Rossouw offered the Boks just the kind of hard-grafting, back-row display they needed. But all was possible because there was stability in the front five of the scrum, and C J van der Linde took his chance well at tight head.

The match was all over as a contest by half-time. Thereafter, the Springboks just did enough to withstand what few feeble efforts the Scots made. But whenever they wished, they found a higher gear to remind the silent, sodden 45,000 crowd of their overwhelming superiority.