Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 10-21 South Africa

Scotland v South Africa

There was a great atmosphere at Murrayfield today as a near-capacity crowd were warmed up with a mixture of bagpipes and guns and allegedly a plane – although only George Clancy could see it.

Sadly the spectacle on the pitch didn’t really match up to it as the opening exchanges followed the aerial theme with plenty of kicking. The South African half-backs Lambie and Pienaar were clearly intent on testing the Scottish back three – Visser in particular – under the high ball. With a probing game-plan, the Boks went looking for weaknesses and found ref George Clancy willing to reward their endeavours.

For their first penalty although it was kickable, South Africa opted for some mauling practice but got in each other’s way. Worryingly though, they were clearly confident they had the skill and power to rumble over Scotland.

Conversely when Scotland were on the ball, the South African tacklers were well up to the challenge of smaller Scottish players looking to make ground. The home team though were betrayed by their own exuberance, pinged first for offside then a breakdown offence, gifting South Africa a kick they couldn’t ignore.

After Hogg was caught in possession deep in his own half, Francois Louw smashed Richie Gray so hard that a concerned Clancy stopped play. The big man was on his feet before long but groggy with it, and Scotland were facing a scrum defending their own line. They cleared the danger but South Africa came back at them with the usual ferocity, maul back in action.

On 20 minutes the Boks crossed the line suspiciously easily as the maul finally clicked. The shaky Gray was taken off immediately thereafter and Al Kellock strode on.

It was around then we saw the first of the much heralded Ruan Pienaar with a half break. He was kept at bay pretty well all day but with the score at 3-11 South Africa didn’t need to attack all that cleverly; Scotland needed a period of consistent possession.

With Gray off it was left to Grant and Denton to do the smash-it-up ball carrying and they did so to raucous cheers, but from 1 to 15 the South Africans were a solid wall of dark green.

At 3-14 after half an hour, Scotland could get penalties easily enough but not in the right areas. South Africa on the other hand were slowly building their points total as the Scots struggled to make headway.

After a rare line-out close to the opposition line, Scotland were penalised for holding on almost under the posts which killed momentum – the story of the day. Although such behaviour seems odd when clearly they would want quick ball.

The penalty count killed Scotland in the first half despite South Africa scarcely threatening our try line. With the points coming from the boot, they didn’t have to.

The second half started scrappily too but at least Clancy getting caught in the thick of things gave the crowd a little cheer. The game was still being played by Scotland in their own half and naturally South Africa were all too comfortable with that.

We even saw Hogg being stepped by an openside and not a small one either. Then things went from comical to worse as a telegraphed pass from Mike Blair had him feeling like Dan Carter (and not in a good way), as Strauss intercepted and ambled over unchallenged for the try.

As a dejected Blair left the field – hooked instantly to be replaced by Pyrgos – Bok tails were up and they were content to let Scotland batter away at them.

However they were caught napping as a perfectly timed Kelly Brown pass from 12ft up in the air at a smoothly executed lineout sent Pyrgos clean through for a try on only his second cap.

The home try got the crowd in full voice and some errors from the visitors threatened a real momentum shift as the backs finally got involved. Denton and Matt Scott in particular were instrumental in getting and keeping the team moving forward, while the excellent Pyrgos clearly came on with a brief to increase the pace.

Denton, Grant and Scott were all good again this week but again there were a few players quiet, like De Luca, who really needs big stand-out moments to silence his critics. Hogg was again not given enough ball in space (there was in truth little space for even his fast feet) and Visser learned what it was like for a Scotland winger in less recent times as he had little chance to make an impact.

The usual round of bench changes with 12 minutes to play left Scotland with an awfully big mountain to climb 11 points adrift. They battled hard but just couldn’t get the ball over the line despite a wealth of possession. South Africa were happy to shut up shop especially at the endless scrums and watch the chances and the seconds tick past.

Scotland had a man advantage for the last five minutes and hammered the Bok line again and again, but the passes were forced and the usual little errors crept in at just the wrong moments.

Another score early in that period could have seen a real surprise result, but there was in the end little that was surprising.

They would have been worth another score, but in the end the win was just a little too much to ask against such a South African defence that gave them so little when it really mattered.

Post match reaction to follow…

Scotland: Hogg, Lamont, De Luca, Scott, Visser, Laidlaw, Blair; Grant, Ford, Murray, Gray, Hamilton, Brown, Barclay, Denton
Bench: Hall, Traynor, Cross, Kellock, McInally, Pyrgos, Jackson, Murchie

South Africa: Kirchner, Pieterson, De Jongh, De Villiers, Hougaard, Lambie, Pienaar; Steenkamp, Strauss, Du Plessis, Etzebeth, Kruger, Louw, Alberts, Vermeulen
Bench: Brits, Van Der Merwe, Van Der Linde, Van Der Merwe, Coetzee, Steyn, Taute, Mvovo

13 Responses

  1. I am bewildered why we played the Boks at their own game for the first 50 minutes, why our kicking game is always so poor and why we don’t contest opponents’ line outs.

  2. Interesting game, but all to late. I hope the coaching staff take what they see from the last two games, front the best team againts Tonga and use it to build for the 6 nations.

    Pyrgos was quick at getting the ball out of the ruck, which turned Scotland into a different machine. Blair is past it now and surely Pyrgos would start the 6 nations as No.1 halfback. If not its the same old Scotland story.

    Murray must go too. Slow around the field, inaffective at ruck time. Watch him closely, more life is needed in his position.

    I must comment on decision making. Numerous times in both games, Scotland has made the complete wrong decision. Attacking South Africa on their line, 3 times we kicked it through with no result. Not even close to a result. It was two first fives that kicked the ball, which makes me think this is somewhere in the game plan being instructed by coaching staff. Hold the damn ball.

    How about running the ball over the line. Crash it in the centres. Simple stuff. De Luca or both wingers should be crossing the line from that close.

    I have followed Scottish Rugby for 25 years from NZ, since leaving Inverness. The lack of correct decision making, is costing Scotland vital games.

    Please Scotland, front your best team for Tonga. Smash them and move on. Thats how a winning team thinks.

    Pyrgos must be, I repeat must be starting. he plays the new ruck game with speed. Not sitting around complaining that someone is lying on the ball. Awesome to see!

  3. Scotland really needed Duncan Weir, a more Dan Parksish fly half. A couple of drop goals or smarter kicks could have changed the game.
    Also, why does Andy Robinson insist on fielding a predominantly Edinburgh starting team? As soon as the Warrior replacements came on Scotland started playing better, just a bit too late.

  4. Agree with the comments about Blair. Seems to take an age to deliver ball from already won rucks. Was read like a book for the interception. Would like Laidlaw to get a run at 9 for Edinburgh/Scotland and Pyrgos as his current back up in the Scottish squad. Get Gala’s Lee Miller a contract at Edinburgh and Scott Wight (surely the most natural 10 in Scotland) into the squad.

  5. Fraser, I tend to agree that the weighting in the team is too tilted toward an out of form and poor defensive edinborough team. It is the same argument between picking form players against experienced old hands. I think Robinson has always erred on the wrong side of this. We should be selecting for the future. It’s not as if we are replacing a championship squad. Pyrgos was a breath of fresh air. Stand off is our biggest problem position, I’m not entirely sure wether weir is the answer, but laidlaw just doesn’t do it for me, he’s too wee and doesn’t control a game. The final 30 minutes were more encouraging, hope AR is bold with his selection for next week, but I won’t be holding my breath. How can fusaro not be the squad!!

  6. With Gray concussed does this mean that Gilchrist is next in line for a 2nd row berth? As a player who has not performed a dominant act on the pitch; be it a tackle, carry or clearout, why has he been preferred in the squad to the likes of Fraser McKenzie? McKenzie has been playing solidly, and would bring a bit of bite to the boiler room!

  7. Just found out that match v Tonga is only on BBC2 in Scotland and not the rest of the UK. What do we even pay our licence fee for? its bad enough we have to listen to Jonathan Davies when the rugby is on! Nice to know the BBC feel a non cap Ireland select game is more important than a full test from Scotland. Go on the BBC website and register a complaint at

  8. I agree with most here. AR messed up the tactics and we took SA on at their own game until pygros came on. I am not a fan of laidlaw either, he gets targeted becuase of his size and I swear he has never done a terriortorial kick in his life. Not sure about De luca at centre either but then they get such scrappy ball you cant really judge. It also annoys me that we use our forwards as backs, we always spred it wide but then found a forward in our back line to run it in and loose it. If it goes to back you have to use pace and guile.
    Lastly Denton has began to really annoy me. He is an unbelivible talent but he only seems to run directly into people. If he attacked their outside shoulder he would break the gain line most times but running into some of the biggest players in the world, head on, is just never going to work!

    1. No sure we can completely blame AR for messing up the tactics. Lot of chat from players after the game was that they were told to tackle low but didn’t. When they started tackling low in the 2nd half SA lost momentum.
      Pleased to see marked difference in Scotland once Pyrgos came on. AR’s been talking about Scotland getting “quick ball” since year dot but it never seemed to materialise. Blair and Cusiter seem spend too long looking at the referee for penalties rather than getting the ball out to the backs.

    2. Hmm tough one to call, if all the team is tackling high and have been told low I would still blame the managemnet. If the whole team are making the same error then where else can you look. Also it was our attack that was the worst part of our game in the 1st half, all becuase of the tactics we employed (route 1 and box kicking with weak chasing.

      What do people think of laidlaw moving back to 9 as I used to really rate him there?

    3. Interesting choice for half-backs with Heathcote coming into the squad. Would be unlikely that he starts, with Laidlaw at 9 but it is now a possibility. More likely be Pyrgos and TH on the bench. With Edinburgh signing another 10, has there been word from on high to move Laidlaw back inside?

  9. By my count (and i could be wrong) if we had kick the penalties that we got in the second half, after the try, we would have won. Now i know it doesn’t really work like that but surely getting 3 points is better than nothing and we were clearly going to struggle to break through their defense which was pretty solid all game.

    Would have keep the scoreboard ticking over and put a bit more pressure on them.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion