Watching Scotland play South Africa is tough, but not as tough as having to run endlessly into a line of Springbok shirts for very little gain. How did they do in the 16-34 smash up?
15. Stuart Hogg – made a hash of a couple of passes after doing great work to find some space behind the miserly South African defence. Secure under the high ball but given very little room to breathe. And then there’s this:
Silly in the extreme. Still a key part of the team and we hope he’s fit for next week. 5/10
14. Tommy Seymour – had almost nothing to do first half as South Africa were concentrating on Visser’s wing as the weak point defensively. Both wingers popped up exactly as supposed to for Scotland’s try and was more visible in the improved second half. 5/10
13. Richie Vernon – cult figure and former correspondent of this site he may be, but had so few chances with ball in hand that he forced a couple early on, one of which was nearly an interception. Better second half but probably not enough to keep Bennett out next week. 4/10
12. Matt Scott – Little to do all game apart from tackle and will not have enjoyed the minimal amount of time he had on the ball, nor the lack of ground he gained when he got it. 4/10
11. Tim Visser – nearly gave away a try with one of those inept shoulder-barge tackles of his but the scramble defence saved his blushes. Almost had a chance for a breakout after grabbing a South African cross-kick well but was quiet after that until his part in the try. His wing was definitely where the Boks went hunting early on. 4/10
10. Duncan Weir – tactical kicking was poor in the first half and didn’t get the backline firing. His lungbursting interception break so nearly transformed the game and led to his and Scotland’s strongest period. Almost made as many tackles as the midfield combined which while suggesting where South Africa were targeting their runners, also shows he didn’t shirk in defence. 7.5/10
9. Greig Laidlaw – kept a lively pace on the rare occasions Scotland had the ball early on. Later in the game distribution picked out Richie Gray and Gordy Reid far too often for a team supposedly with an attacking mentality. Missed a crucial kick at goal when Scotland were creeping back up the scoreboard and then his rash yellow card was the nail in the coffin. As captain, should also shoulder responsibility for slow starts – even if he started better than he finished. 3.5/10
1. Gordon Reid – put in some huge hits, was right in the faces of the South Africans from the start and did the ball carrying that was asked of him. Looked tired by half time but carried it on well into the second half until replaced. 6.5/10
2. Fraser Brown – there were lineout hiccups all throughout the game whether Brown or Ford were throwing in which can also be blamed on the jumpers, but Brown showed what he offered in the loose with much more effective ball carrying. Worth his place next week. 6.5/10
3. WP Nel – didn’t have the triumphant faceoff with the Beast he might have hoped but did make some big hits. 4.5/10
4. Richie Gray – put in a huge amount of work with some 21 tackles and Scotland’s only lineout steal (so much for cracking the codes). Popped up at first receiver a little too often but Scotland’s attack was under huge pressure and never took its true shape. 6/10
5. Jonny Gray – genuinely outworked by his brother for the first time in a Scotland shirt. Took about 35 minutes to really settle into the game and was quiet with ball in hand. Possibly his poorest Scotland outing in terms of visible effect on the game but is too classy a prospect to let that last very long. 5/10
6. Josh Strauss – struggled against his compatriots who were wise to his threat but was still one of the few Scotland players who gained a few extra inches each time. Not quite found his feet at this level but then he is 3-4 weeks behind Nel who looks right at home… 4.5/10
7. Blair Cowan – put in a massive tackle count (21, equal to Richie Gray), but one turnover from our only turnover specialist reflects poorly on an afternoon where we were second best at almost every breakdown regardless of who had the ball. Should focus more on breakdown 5.5/10
8. David Denton – huge enthusiasm and work rate but battered back almost every time by the Springboks. Visible throughout but not least when coughing up two soft penalties just before Laidlaw’s card, at a point where Scotland had just inched into touching distance. Scotland have miraculously kept their penalty count in single figures; Denton was responsible for 50% of them yesterday. 4/10
Following the match, an injury update has been released by the Scotland camp with Hogg looking like cramp and not thought to be serious, more worrying is Ford and Scott who both required head injury assessments and will now follow return to play protocols, while Jonny Gray and Richie Vernon had leg knocks both classed as minor (dead leg/knee strain).
There was also an update on John Hardie and Finn Russell. The former continues in the graduated return-to-play protocol while Russell continues to make good progress on his ankle. So there is a chance they will both be fit to play in the do-or-die clash with Samoa next Saturday.
If Scotland win they will face the winner of Wales v Australia in the quarter finals, it’s that simple.