Match Report: Scotland Cup hopes hit as Boks win ugly

Scotland 10 South Africa 21

Murrayfield

For the second week running, South Africa barely looked like the second best side in the world, but they did enough to win and that was all that mattered.

They played simple, robust rugby for long enough to take a firm grip on the game and could then rely on their defence to seal the deal.

For the Scots, the defeat undermines their Rugby World Cup hopes even though the tournament is still three years away. With the draw being made next month, world rankings are the key, but  defeat yesterday ended all their hopes of getting into the top eight and being given a favourable draw.

No such problems for South  Africa, who are already guaranteed a top four spot, though they know they are far from the finished product. “I will always take the ugly win, it doesn’t matter who we are playing,” said Heyneke Meyer, the South African coach. “Our goal is that we have not for some time been unbeaten on the end of year tour, and our goal was to come and win all three. We are two-nil up with one to go.

“There is still a huge amount of improvement to come in the way we play but better teams have lost against the Scots, and against Ireland so we will take these two wins even though we know we have to improve a lot to get where we want to be.”

His Scotland counterpart, Andy Robinson, said: “We came into the game with a plan and obviously it didn’t work. It just showed the gulf of where we are. We have to make sure that we learn the lessons; that we cannot afford to give penalties away in the way we did because that just gifted them field position.”

For all that, it was a poor game with none of the silky skills the All Blacks demonstrated at Murrayfield the week before. Neither side showed a quarter of the ability of the world champions as South Africa established their power game and lost their grip on proceedings only when the result was no longer in doubt.

For the entire first half, they dominated possession and territory, demonstrating a huge confidence in their line out by sending kickable penalties into touch, and relying on their mighty maul to do the rest.

Eventually it worked, even if there was a suspicion of offside in the build-up. Once that maul got going, there was no way it was going to stop before the try line, nor did it with Adriaan Strauss, the hooker, the man at the back with the honour of grounding the ball.

On either side of that score, there were also three penalties that were pretty much gimme kicks, allowing Patrick Lambie, the young fly half, to harvest another nine points with the boot, putting the Springboks firmly in control at the break.

Better soon became decisive when Strauss, of all people, juggled, but eventually caught, an interception from Mike Blair, the Scotland scrum half, in midfield and looked as shocked as anybody as he trundled the remaining 25 yards to cross the line.

It was enough to make sure there would be no shock result, and also enough to spur Scotland to raise their effort, claiming a consolation score for Henry Pyrgos, the replacement scrum half who was winning only his second cap, and set Scotland up for a determined flourish at the end that only underlined how  seriously outmuscled they had been when it really mattered.

Not only that, but for all their dominance in the final quarter, there was no second break in the determined Springbok defence. The Scots tried everything they could think of from the simple neanderthal approach of trying to batter their way through to trying to move the ball wide to the wings, but whatever they did, South Africa had it covered.

Good news for Mtawarira

South Africa prop Tendai Mtawarira says his rugby career is not under threat after having a medical procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. The South African Rugby Union say Mtawarira, who left the Springboks' tour to Europe after a recurrence of heart palpitations, underwent the "minor" procedure on Wednesday. He was released from the hospital in Cape Town on Friday. Mtawarira has managed the condition for some time and the 27-year-old forward said the procedure was successful and there was "no need to worry. This can be treated. It's not career-threatening."

Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); S Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), N De Luca (Edinburgh), M Scott (Edinburgh), T Visser (Edinburgh); G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), M Blair (Brive); R Grant (Glasgow Warriors), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Agen), R Gray (Sale), J Hamilton (Gloucester), K Brown  (Saracens), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), D Denton (Edinburgh).

Replacements: D Hall (Glasgow Warriors) for Ford 68, G Cross (Edinburgh) for Murray 68, A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) for Gray 22, H Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) for Blair 47, R Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) for Laidlaw 68.

South Africa: Z Kirchner (Bulls); JP Pietersen (Sharks), J de Jongh (Stormers), J de Villiers (Stormers), F Hougaard (Bulls); P Lambie (Sharks), R Pienaar (Ulster); G Steenkamp (Toulouse), A Strauss (Sheetahs), J du Plessis (Sharks), E Etzebeth (Stormers), J Kruger (Bulls), F Louw (Bath), W Alberts (Sharks), D Vermeulen (Stormers).

Replacements: S Brits (Saracens) for Strauss 76, H van der Merwe (Leinster) for Steenkamp 61, CJ van der Linde (Lions) for du Plessis 52, F van der Merwe (Bulls) for Kruger 68, M Coetzee (Sharks) for Alberts 53, M Steyn (Bulls).

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland)

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