A much-improved performance from Scott Johnson’s side ultimately wasn’t enough as South Africa recorded back-to-back wins in the Quadrangular Series.
There was a notable difference in intensity from last weekend’s dismal defeat to Samoa as Johnson’s side caused havoc at the breakdown with Al Strokosch and Jim Hamilton to the fore throughout.
Greig Laidlaw, captain for the day in the absence of the injured Kelly Brown, kicked a pair of penalties for the visitors in the opening period.
There was a glimpse of what Johnson’s side offer in attack, as great work from debutante winger Tommy Seymour put Matt Scott away, and the Edinburgh centre found his way to the line for his second Test try.
With news that Brad Barritt has joined The Lions squad, Scott can consider himself desperately unlucky to miss out having pulled the strings in attack for the tourists in Nelspruit.
Strong work in defence, where Alex Dunbar also looked composed and Scott Lawson brought experience to a depleted pack, saw the visitors hold on to lead at the interval.
Half-time: South Africa 6-10 Scotland
There was to be another moment for Scotland fans to savour, though, as another try followed shortly after the resumption, when Glasgow centre Alex Dunbar grabbed his first Test try to put the Scots 11 points clear with the aid of Laidlaw’s second conversion. Unfortunately that also saw the withdrawal of the second fly-half in Peter Horne who will miss the remaining match along with Ryan Wilson.
Momentum swung the way of the Springboks as their monstrous pack rumbled towards the line before referee Romain Poite awarded a penalty try which Morne Steyn converted to reduce the arrears. From then on it was, by and large, all South Africa as they got the benefit of some dubious refereeing calls, while a needless and ridiculously soft yellow card for Jim Hamilton didn’t help the Scottish cause.
Centre JJ Englbrecht went over just before the hour to give the hosts the lead, while Steyn added another conversion and they sealed the win with a final try right on the full-time siren.
The final scoreline flattered the Boks as replacement Jan Serfontein grabbed his first international try to seal the Springboks’ place in the final against Samoa.
Scott Johnson’s side can take heart from their performance as they pushed South Africa closer than initial odds of 250-1 would suggest (they shortened to 7-1 at half time), whilst Strokosch, Dunbar, Scott and Laidlaw can all be proud of their individual efforts.