Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Rugby World Cup Pool B: Scotland Player Ratings v South Africa

South Africa vs Scotland
South Africa vs Scotland - graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

South Africa

2023 Rugby World CupSun 10th Sep 2023Stade de Marseille, MarseilleKick-off: 4:45 pm (UK)18-3


Referee: Angus Gardner (RA)| TV: ITV1/STV

It’s been a while since Scotland were held tryless. The last time was back in 2020, amidst a full-blown cyclone. The conditions on Sunday in Marseille were not quite as oppressive. Sure, it was hot and humid, but it was South African pressure that prevented Scotland from catching their breath. 

Let’s see how Scotland shaped up. 


Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Set Piece

1. Pierre Schoeman: Overall the Scottish scrum held up pretty well in the first half. Was pinged harshly early on but got his own back later. Low on both metres made and tackles completed. A good day for set-piece but not his biggest impact around the park. - (A4/D5/B4/S7) Overall: 5/10

2. George Turner: Scotland’s lineout was an issue yet again, but you can’t say it was all down to Turner. Sure, his first throw in went above the hands of a full-stretch Richie Gray, but there were issues with lifting and organisation above and beyond the hooker, and it seemed like the plan to deal with the three giant opposition jumpers was to go to the back at most opportunities. It was, however, precisely that which led to our biggest opportunity of the game with the long throw over the top to Sione Tuipoltu that came close to opening the Springboks up. - (A4/D5/B4/S5) Overall: 4.5/10

3. Zander Fagerson: Won a penalty against the head just before half time which led to our only points of the game. Along with the rest of the front row had a fairly subdued day around the park. Subbed as soon as the bomb squad appeared and got underneath him. - (A4/D5/B4/S6.5) Overall: 5/10

4. Richie Gray: Scotland’s starting second row amassed a total of two lineouts won between them, which presumably was a tactic to avoid the Springbok big men, but alas did not pay off. Showed some decent hands as usual as a link man and came away with 100% tackle rate. - (A5/D7/B4/S4) Overall: 5/10

5. Grant Gilchrist: A similar story for Gilco today with 9 from 9 tackles completed. Our locks looked pedestrian in attack compared to the Globetrotting antics from RG Snyman. - (A4/D7/B4/S4) Overall: 5/10

6. Jamie Ritchie (capt): It took Scotland 70 minutes to make their first and only jackal of the game, which speaks to the dominance from the Springboks at the breakdown. A little subdued on the day and joint leader of the missed tackle club, although still put in a big defensive shift. Took the most lineouts of the day. - (A4/D6/B4/S5) Overall: 5/10

7. Rory Darge: Solid defensive effort and was really dominant in the tackle. We didn’t see him get over the ball once at the breakdown, which he won’t be happy with. Didn’t get the ball in hand going forward until Scotland looked tired and started getting themselves isolated. - (A4/D7/B4/S5) Overall: 5/10

8. Jack Dempsey: Most metres carried by any Scotland player, ran like his life depended on it from start to finish. Topped the defensive effort too with 11 from 11 tackles completed. Made the only jackal of the day. Picking Scotland’s player of the match was a fairly simple task for this one. - (A7.5/D7.5/B5/S5) Overall: 6.5/10


Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Influence

9. Ben White: Heart in mouth time when his first kick was charged down, only went to the boot from the breakdown once after that. Big defensive effort from the scrum half with 10 tackles made. - (A5/D7.5/B5/I6.5) Overall: 6/10

10. Finn Russell: Another early chargedown, a potential broken rib, a deliberate knock-on and a bit of a late challenge, the last two potentially ending in cards being shown. There were a couple of hair-raising moments for Finn too. Despite the fact that he was his usual self off the boot, denied a 50-22 by a bit of Cheslin Kolbe magic, but managed another one midway through the second half. Hard to keep track of the key tackles he made, including the two try savers towards the end. Couldn’t find a way to get in behind the Springboks alas. - (A5/D8/B5/I6) Overall: 6/10

11. Duhan Van Der Merwe: On paper you’d say Kurt-Lee Arendse would have a tough day physically, but he didn’t have much to do one on one. Duhan began the day by being sat down by Siya Kolisi. He came in field a lot looking for work, but couldn’t break through in the tight areas and this led to him being out of position for the second try.  Never managed to get up to speed in the wide channels. - (A5/D4/B5/I4) Overall: 4.5/10

12. Sione Tuipulotu: His first carry led to a turnover in our own 22. His next touch was a bit more successful in the beautifully executed set play, which nearly led to a try, but couldn’t make enough metres to influence the game. Another solid defensive shift with 100% tackle completion. - (A5/D6.5/B5/I5) Overall: 5.5/10

13. Huw Jones: Ran a lovely line behind the defense early on, but Russell couldn’t quite put the ball in his hands. Another big shift defensively. - (A5/D7/B5/I5) Overall: 5.5/10

14. Darcy Graham: Looked the most lively from Scotland’s backs going forward but couldn’t quite get his hands free to put Duhan away for what could’ve been a game changing try. For a day of a single jackal he came very close to doubling that tally. - (A6/D5/B6/I6) Overall: 6/10

15. Blair Kinghorn: Felt some pressure at the start under the high ball, but was solid from then on. Great defense at the beginning of the second half to prevent a try, unlucky to knock it on. Solid with the boot all day. Only got one chance to really stretch his legs going forward.  - (A5/D6/B5/I6) Overall: 5.5/10


Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Impact

16. Dave Cherry: Total chaos at the lineout which could’ve been Scotland’s last chance to change the outcome of the game. Hard to blame Cherry as the Scotland jumpers had evaporated. Topped the tackle count of the replacements with a decent effort of 4. - (A5/D6/B5/I5) Overall: 5.5/10

17. Jamie Bhatti: Couldn’t deal with the bomb squad. The change in front row was the beginning of the end for Scotland’s scrum competitiveness. - (A4/D5/B4/I3) Overall: 4/10

18. WP Nel: A day he’ll want to forget. - (A4/D5/B4/I3) Overall: 4/10

19. Scott Cummings: Looked strong going forward and up for carrying. Took a few lineouts too. - (A6/D5/B5/I6) Overall: 5.5/10

20. Matt Fagerson: Carried well and completed his only tackle of the day nicely. - (A6/D6/B5/I6) Overall: 6/10

21. Ali Price: Got onto a loose ball from the Springboks but couldn’t keep the grubber kick in play. Made as many tackles as Gregor Townsend on the day. - (A5/D5/B5/I5) Overall: 5/10

22. Cameron Redpath: Looked handy and made some space when he came on with a couple of nice steps and some decent hands. - (A6/D5/B5/I6) Overall: 5.5/10

23. Ollie Smith: Made a tackle and made more metres than Huwipolotu combined. Not a terrible cameo - but gamechangers were required. - (A6/D6/B5/I5) Overall: 5.5/10

6 Responses

  1. You probably could score all of the team one for breakdown, four seems generous. Agree Dempsey was our best performer. Really hope we can address the lineout issue before we play Ireland or result will be similar

  2. I think you have significantly underestimated the success of the front row in the scrum in the first half – against SA, one of the best in this area. Our guys mostly held their own and even got on top on occasions – not many teams do that! Why do we choose props – it’s not for running around with ball in hand. Like others you only seem to see & rate the showy bits of rugby.

    1. Hi John, we’re working on perhaps revising the way the scoring is calculated to give props more kudos for a good set piece score rather than ending up with a low average… Suggestions welcome from any stattos out there!

  3. The lineouts killed us, simple. That goes differently and it’s an entirely different ballgame.

    To think how well the defence stood up generally against SA – massive heart to be taken into the Ireland game.

    If we had managed load a bullet in the chamber, rather than fumbling each time into the dirt. We know the attack is a force to be reckoned with. Normally there are tries.

    However, what we do now know is the defence is a force to reckon with the very best; likewise the scrum. There’s a lot to take from that game and into the Ireland game.

    Not going to criticise the difficulty defending the highball from SA, it’s what they do.

    Simplify the lineouts!

    1. It looked like a deliberate tactic to throw long in the lineouts to counteract Etzebeth et al. In theory a good idea, but execution was terrible. As you say, hopefully they will simplify going forward.

  4. Think the front row scores in first half are a bit harsh, particularly since they pushed SA off the ball before half time. Our 1st half scrum was excellent. Subs definitely didn’t bring much impact, but hard to know if it was also refereeing, WP did a lot of head shaking whilst still fresh.
    Focus in training needs to be set piece accuracy – Lineout was a shambles. Also think we need Captain to whisper to ref when opposition are clearly offside, sure SA rush defence is good, but there were times when they were just blatantly offside. Hopefully Tonga and Ireland heavily tenderise each other this weekend.

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