Speaking after another defeat although less hefty than last week, Scotland coach Andy Robinson was his usual self, not giving much away but hinting at a well of deep frustration lurking just below the surface.
“We’re pretty disappointed with what has occurred today. What happened in that first 50 minutes was hugely frustrating. We went into the game with a plan but obviously that plan didn’t work.”
Captain Kelly Brown agreed, stating that “the energy was a bit down” in the opening minutes. Losing the talismanic Richie Gray quite early on probably did not help. But with runners the size of Louw and Etzebeth running at you injuries were a real possibility for even the biggest men.
“Last week we were facing speed, this week we were facing physicality,” said Robinson. Hinting at an awareness of Scotland’s deficiency in the size stakes, he went on: “they are the toughest team for us to play.”
He said South Africa were a step up in physicality from last week, but also that Scottish players running in singles without what the Aussies might refer to as an offsider allowed all the big hits that made the crowd gasp and wince, but also regularly turned over or slowed down ball to the opposition.
He felt the key was the first half when Scotland “gave simple penalties away. You give away those penalties and you are under pressure.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom as there was now a confidence we can keep hold of the ball: “We showed we can compete with the top sides, but if we don’t do it for 80 minutes they will score points against you.”
For Springbok coach Heineke Meyer it was a similar complaint for his own team: two many penalties and not an 80 minute performance: “I was very happy with first half. I thought we were in control.”
Robinson felt Pyrgos brought “real energy to the game”, while Meyer credited the Pyrgos try with the momentum shift on 50 minutes.
“Credit to the way Scotland played, they really came at us in the second half… it was great defence that kept them out.”
“They really play positive and play to their strengths, which is a good rucking game.”
He was also full of praise for the leadership of captain Jean De Villiers, who elaborated that “the attitude you show in defence is the attitude you show towards your team.”
“A lot was made of Scotland scoring 3 tries against New Zealand, the best team in the world, and [apart from the set piece try] we managed to keep them out.”
Meyer agreed: “at the end of the day I will always take an ugly win.”
Following Samoa’s defeat of Wales – and all but guaranteed a spot in the third-ranked seeds – Scotland are now in a “very difficult position” said Robinson. But he’s ready to face whatever draw is thrown at Scotland come December.
“You look at what group you have and go with that.”
The last word should probably go to captain Kelly Brown: “You can either lie down and die or stand up and fight. I want a team that will stand up and fight.”
“Next week we have to stand up and fight from the first minute.”