Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v South Africa: Rugby World Cup 2023, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

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

10 of the Scottish 23 were involved when these sides met at Murrayfield in November 2021. Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Pierre Schoeman, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie are the returning starters. 9 of the side have never previously played against South Africa at Test level (Darcy Graham, Sione Tuipulotu, Ben White, George Turner, Rory Darge, Dave Cherry, Scott Cummings, Cameron Redpath and Ollie Smith).

13 of the Springbok 23 featured the last time these sides met. 6 of the side have never previously played against Scotland at Test level (Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk, Marco van Staden and Grant Williams).

Only 6 of the 46 players were involved when these teams met during the 2015 RWC pool stages – WP Nel and Richie Gray for the Scots; Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth and Trevor Nyakane for the Boks.

6 changes to Scotland’s starting XV from last Test (v Georgia)

  • 15 – Kinghorn for Smith [+]
  • 14 – Graham for Steyn [+]
  • 1 – Schoeman for Bhatti [+]
  • 2 – Turner for Cherry [+]
  • 3 – Z. Fagerson for Nel [+]
  • 4 – R. Gray for Skinner [+]

4 changes to South Africa’s starting XV from last Test (v New Zealand)

  • 13 – Kriel for Moodie [=]
  • 12 – de Allende for Esterhuizen [+]
  • 11 – Kolbe for Mapimpi [+]
  • 8 – Wiese for Vermeulen [=]


Blair Kinghorn
Darcy Graham
Duhan van der Merwe*
Damian Willemse
Kurt-Lee Arendse*
Cheslin Kolbe
3rd time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

South Africa have historically used their kicking game as a real weapon to gain territory and possession in more dangerous attacking positions and this was a big part of their 2019 RWC win and series victory over the British & Irish Lions in 2021. Of the 5-man axis that dominated many of these contests against the Lions 2 years ago, only Cheslin Kolbe remains, with kickers Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux out of the starting XV and the king of the chasers, Makazole Mapimpi, not involved either.

There is a significant size differential between the 2 units, with the Scots averaging 13kg a man heavier and a height advantage in each of the primary direct contests:

  • Blair Kinghorn 1.95m – 1.83m Damian Willemse
  • Darcy Graham 1.76m – 1.70m Cheslin Kolbe
  • Duhan van der Merwe 1.93m – 1.77m Kurt-Lee Arendse

The Springboks’ skillset in this area will lend itself more to counterattacking than launching kicks. This is something the Scottish defence has struggled with against high octane transition sides like France but equally, it may play into the dark blues’ desire for a looser contest, played away from the breakdown and setpiece as much as possible.


Huw Jones*
Sione Tuipulotu*
Jesse Kriel
Damian de Allende
9th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

The preternatural understanding built up by Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones in the 269 days since they first played a game together for Glasgow Warriors will be put to the test against a pairing whose first start was more than 8 years ago and who will be featuring as a centre combo at a 3rd successive World Cup.

Huwipulotu is mainly about deception and creating space for Finn Russell – although Tuipulotu can bring the power when required. Kriallende is a steadier pairing whose aggressive defence will make life very tricky for the Scots as they try to shift the ball away from the Springboks’ pack.

It’s possible that the lack of distribution from their midfield could restrict how frequently South Africa can use the scorching pace of the ankle-breaking steppers they have in the back 3. Kriel and de Allende only made 5 passes in their most recent competitive outing (against Argentina in The Rugby Championship). For comparison, Jones and Tuipulotu threw 18 passes in their final Six Nations’ match of 2023 versus Italy.


Finn Russell
Ben White*
Manie Libbok*
Faf de Klerk
7th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

Until this year neither of these half back pairings had ever started together. In fact, in the South African duo’s case, they hadn’t started as a combination until 16 days before this game! Manie Libbok has played outside 4 different scrum halves in his 5 starts for the Springboks so far. Of course, he seemed to mesh pretty well with Faf de Klerk when they combined to guide their team to a demolition of the All Blacks at Twickenham…

The first 3 years of this World Cup cycle were all about Ali Price at 9 for Scotland as he took over from the retired Greig Laidlaw, with the Glasgow Warrior becoming a starting Lions scrum half in the process – the first Scot to do so since Roy Laidlaw in 1983.

2023 has been the year of Ben White though, with the former London Irish man starting 7 of Scotland’s 9 Tests. He has been paired with Finn Russell in 6 of those games and the understanding they have built up has to stand them in good stead if Scotland are going to take the game to the world champions.


Pierre Schoeman*
George Turner
Zander Fagerson
Steven Kitshoff
Malcolm Marx
Frans Malherbe
11th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

The Pierre Schoeman / Zander Fagerson double act has been very much the first-choice propping pair since Schoeman’s debut in October 2021. Their 3rd outing together (with Stuart McInally at hooker) was against a Springboks’s side with very similar front row personnel to Sunday’s fixture. Jamie Bhatti and Oli Kebble were the Scottish bench props on a day that the dark blues conceded a disheartening 5 scrum penalties.

The coaching staff will be hoping that another couple of years working with scrum coach Pieter de Villiers – plus the availability of WP Nel as replacement tighthead – has closed some of the gap on South Africa in this area. If pretty much every scrum becomes a guaranteed penalty to the Springboks then it will be extremely hard for the Scots to execute the kind of gameplan they need to in order play in the right areas of the pitch.


Richie Gray
Grant Gilchrist
Eben Etzebeth
Franco Mostert
10th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

Even the experienced South Africans can’t match the serious veteran status of Scotland’s lock pairing – there won’t be much this quartet haven’t seen and done in a collective 41 years of playing Test rugby! Richie Gray and Eben Etzebeth first went head to head at this level more than a decade ago in November 2012 – although Gray only lasted 22 minutes in a match that Scotland lost 21-10.

Jonny’s brother is the only one of the 46 players to have played in a game between these two sides where the dark blues emerged victorious. Way back in 2010, the elder Gray was making just his second start for Scotland when Dan Parks’ boot edged his team to a 21-17 win. A dozen years have passed and this will be Richie’s 4th attempt to match that victory.

There will be plenty of graft from this area for both teams. The South African duo will be the more aggressive, particularly around the breakdown. With neither Gray nor Gilchrist having particularly significant carrying duties, the biggest contribution they can make will be just to try and nullify the impact of their second row counterparts at ruck and maul. The Scots also need to find a way to win the lineout battle, providing a secure stream of possession and, in an ideal world, at least a couple of steals on Springbok throws.


Jamie Ritchie (c)
Rory Darge*
Jack Dempsey
Siya Kolisi (c)
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Jasper Wiese*
3rd time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

The two captains will both wear the 6 shirt, although due to South Africa’s ‘unique’ numbering system, Siya Kolisi will be in direct opposition to openside Rory Darge rather than his fellow skipper, Jamie Ritchie.

The only real surprise in any of the 6 players selected in this area was Jasper Wiese edging out Duane Vermeulen from the unit that started South Africa’s last World Cup match (the small matter of a win in the final against England). The Leicester Tiger had been alternating with his more experienced colleague throughout 2023 but, until this point, was picking up his starts in the slightly lesser games or matches featuring rotation. There won’t be any drop off in power though and the younger man’s voluminous work rate will mean his Scottish opponents will spend much of the afternoon having to find ways to chop him down after yet another carry.

Scotland’s back row has only really come together in the last couple of months but they have the potential to be an outstanding group. Ritchie and Darge have to slow and steal South African ball. Both will be wary of how Angus Gardner views body height at the ruck after fellow Australian, Nic Berry’s interpretation against France a couple of weeks ago. Darge in particular was pinged when in a position that has won him numerous penalties from northern hemisphere refs.


Dave Cherry*
Jamie Bhatti*

WP Nel
Scott Cummings
Matt Fagerson*
Bongi Mbonambi
Ox Nche
Trevor Nyakane
RG Snyman
Marco van Staden*
Duane Vermeulen
76 previous sub appearances by this group for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

Scotland’s very own ‘Bam Squad’ have been regular go-to’s from the bench and have plenty of experience filling these roles. It’s a bit different when it’s the Springboks though, coming up against a backup front row with enough quality that they would start for most other nations.

WP Nel’s performance could be crucial in containing South Africa’s replacements. He will become the oldest player to feature for Scotland at a Rugby World Cup when he is sprung from the bench. The veteran prop will be aged 37 years and 134 days, taking over the record previously held by Norrie Rowan (35 years and 259 days when he played against Romania in 1987). If WP gets tired of the young fellas talking TikToks he could always warm up with another 37 year old (and fellow Free State Cheetahs alumni) Duane Vermeulen.


Ali Price
Cameron Redpath*
Ollie Smith*

Grant Williams*
Willie le Roux
25 previous sub appearances by this group for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

Stretching any rational boundaries to breaking point while looking for positive signs for Scotland it’s possible to alight on the unalterable fact that South Africa have lost on the last 2 occasions that Willie le Roux has been a sub rather than a starter.

The Bulls’ full back was also named in the 23 shirt for his side’s warm-up against New Zealand but was the late withdrawal that led to the 7-1 bench. Would the thrashing meted out by the Springboks have taken place if the le Roux curse (as no one is calling it) had been in effect? Or has his absence prevented him from breaking the sequence, making it 3rd time unlucky and essentially guaranteeing a Scotland victory?!?

Aggregates for the 23s:

Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

* RWC debuts: Scotland 11 – 6 South Africa


– 2 years and 4 months ago, 8 Scottish players were selected for the 2021 Lions’ tour to South Africa – a record number for the professional era. Only 3 of them will start on Sunday.

  • Starters – Zander Fagerson, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe
  • Bench – Ali Price
  • Extended RWC squad – Chris Harris, Rory Sutherland, Hamish Watson
  • Retired – Stuart Hogg

– Since the introduction of the world rankings in 2002, Scotland have played against the 2nd ranked side on 19 occasions, winning just 4 of those games.

  • v Australia W1, L2 (win came in 2012)
  • v England W2, L1 (wins came in 2018 and 2021)
  • v France L2
  • v Ireland L2
  • v South Africa W1, L8 (win came in 2010)

– 2013 was the last time that anyone other than Duane Vermeulen started at number 8 for South Africa against Scotland (Pierre Spies on that occasion). Zane Kirchner in 2012 was the last player other than Willie le Roux to start at full back for South Africa against Scotland. The last 4 encounters between these sides, dating back to summer 2014, featured Stuart Hogg v le Roux in the battle of the 15 jerseys.

– There are just 4 survivors from Scotland’s last starting XV at a World Cup – Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie. Tighthead props WP Nel and Zander Fagerson have swapped jerseys from Yokohama while Blair Kinghorn and Scott Cummings were on the bench on that fateful evening.

– The South African matchday squad includes 10 players who started the last RWC final alongside 4 of the replacements from that game and another 3 players who featured during their run to the Webb Ellis Cup.

– The Scotland starting XV have shared 104 tries among them – the most by any side selected in the Townsend era.

– 32 of the players on show are from teams in the URC. 7 ply their trade in Japan’s Rugby League One. 3 play for Top 14 sides while there are also 3 representatives from the Premiership. Duane Vermeulen is currently unattached but spent last season with Ulster in the URC.

If you missed Part 1 – previous meetings, scouting report and more – check it out here.

77 Responses

  1. Hmm well the team is ok. I mean the first 15 picks itself. So there were only a few decisions to make.
    5-3 or 6-2?
    Horne or Price?
    Who to be the 23rd man?
    and in my opinion they got each of these wrong!
    Should’ve gone 6-2.
    Should’ve gone with Horne over Price
    Healy or Steyn should’ve been 23rd man.
    I am at least pleased they went with Bhatti over Sutherland.

    1. The 23rd Man decision was unusual. You have a point Sam. Steyn has earned it. Totally agree on Bhatii, Sutherland has a great story to tell, amazing comeback, just not edging it yet. I hope he gets back to being the giant he once was. Horne was unlucky, I suppose in these big test matches experience counts a lot more.

  2. Darge v Kolisi…

    You know what, other than giving up a bit, a tiny bit mind, in the front row, that pack matches up.

    The backs are exciting. The midfield could be key.

    5 v 3 split is a surprise. Skinner could be there, but it’s more because you don’t see them wanting to replace any of the starters in the backs beyond White.

    Redpath and Smith is quite a doubling down on the way we want to play though. Lightening on for tired legs in the last ten maybe.

    Not seeing Horne is a shame, but Price was superb for the Lions.

    South Africa picked a team for speed too, but we’ve kept to the theme and then some. Full of talent, no passengers.

    Funny thing is they’ve pick a team to play us while we’ve stuck to our style!

  3. I think that’s the first time in the Toonie era that he has picked exactly the team I thought he would. Has the tombola been left at home?

    Pretty much the team I would have picked, probably would have had Horne over Price and may have opted for Skinner over Cummings to add some heft and ability to cover the backrow, Cummings is a better line out operator though.

    The conventional 5:3 split is a tad surprising but I think it’s the right call. You can’t out South Africa South Africa so don’t even try to, play our own game and hope they get tired, it’s the fittest looking Scotland squad I have seen.

  4. New Zeland very poor but France not much better. France were lucky in staying on the right side of the ref.

    1. The AB’s were lucky , 1st Half Jaco should have been much harsher, he missed or ignored quite a bit IMO. He is one of the less consistent ref’s however we know him well now. Great to see Joy Neville in the 4th official seat today , she is well named , it is a ‘Joy’ to watch such a sharp and fair referee.

  5. Should have gone Horne on the bench to keep the tempo high at the end.

    For me the backs assessment is a tad generous to Scotland.

    Hoping we can live with the Boks power. If we can we have a chance. But if we get rattled and start forcing the game it’ll just play into their hands.

    Keep the heid and it could be there for the taking!

  6. The 23rd Man decision was unusual. You have a point Sam. Steyn has earned it. Totally agree on Bhatii, Sutherland has a great story to tell, amazing comeback, just not edging it yet. I hope he gets back to being the giant he once was. Horne was unlucky, I suppose in these big test matches experience counts a lot more.

    It is going to be a great test , but we need to contain them early , if they get too far away from us , our 2nd half fitness will not count.

  7. Donaldson at FB for Australia shows the potential of having a 10 playing ag FB, his 50-22 about 30secs into the game set the tempo

  8. How bad a game is eng v arg? Is Reynal the worst ref? Against 14 arg have been embarrassing. Almost as bad as the ITV commentary.

    1. The commentary has been atrocious – clearly trying to compete with the performance of the anthems for consistent awfulness.

      My favourite so far was during Aus v Georgia:

      “This is bread and butter to them, they love to scrummage, the Georgians” as the said Georgian pack was being driven backwards and crumbling.

      What I wouldn’t give for a bit of Andrew Cotter’s dry observation.

    2. Arg were dire, England adapted well to the situation and I have to admire how Ford managed the game. I cannot see Finn dropping goals. It just goes to show there is no substitute for experience which brings me to a good point, I think Arg should have put Creevy on to start the second half, so much experience. To bring that back to Scotland, I am heartened to read Rambo is on standby in France his experience is sound. I can see very little wrong with Toony’s decision making ATM. He needs to time the release of the bench now. Hard call IMO.

      Cheka whom I have little respect for was questioned before the game on the decisions to play youth over experience and he was behind the ‘Young guy’s pushing through’. He got the wrong game for it, England adapted, Arg did not and that was down to experienced heads. Toony has had a similar call to make at 9 , he has put his experience on the bench, over the vigorous Horne. Lets see how that goes for us. Will we take any learning’s from England ! or Argentina’s blunder. IMO Toony has made a good call on this.

  9. France & NZ …neither played their best rugby but NZ look a far cry from their previous sides.
    Turgid stuff from England…easy side of the draw will mean they kick their way to the semi no doubt…look like they couldn’t buy a try.
    Australia looked good for 20 mins then just looked very average for the remainder.
    Ireland got caught napping…then just ran over Romania. Hard to judge…too many gifted opportunities.

    Don’t like all the press talk that we’ll do this and that…..we’re up against it…If we don’t turn up playing our best rugby we’ll get mullered. Concerned that if Russell get taken out of the game we’re left with Kinghorn at 10 and his kicking….also our discipline..if we go to 14 that’ll be the game over.

    1. You have a point, Kinghorn at 10 is far from right, however he knows the playbook and tempo needed. Ben H is as solid as you like at 10 , but plays a very different game to Finn. I cannot see the side changing to suit him if he came of the bench. It won’t be the end of game if the worst happens.

  10. I have to admit I’m struggling with hope for this game! If we just try to play wide wide to exhaust them they’ll just spread out and isolate us in the wide channels. We have to maintain a credible threat in the middle of the pitch. We have good ball carriers, Fagersons, Schoe, Dempsey, Darge, Tui but our clearouts have to be right there latching and securing the ruck before the tackle completes. We can use the cross field bomb to put Duhan against Kolbe or Ardense in the air. but ultimately i just don’t see how we get enough possession to win this game. it’s going to be a hard day at scrum and lineout and if SA just keep picking and driving they’ll milk penalties and even tho we have a great defense it will be ground down. Those agile wingers Kobe and Ardense will pressure our passing game looking for intercepts and still be agile enough to turn and cover kicks in behind. People say don’t take them on up front. I think thats crap, you can’t avoid it. you need to get something approaching parity. We needed a 6-2 split, we have quality players for that! The Georgia first half shook me. Is this our plan? wide wide from the start? Just like 2019! even Georgia dealt with that!!!
    Bake me a humble pie and I’ll happily eat it if i’m wrong!

  11. Did anyone watch England vs Argentina? God that was a tough watch, turgid turgid stuff. Are England going to try and resurect the spirit of 2003 and play 10 man rugby all the way to the final? Fair play to them though, Argentina were awful but they were a man down and executed an effective game plan that comfortably won them the game. I have said all along, write of England at your peril, yes they are mince at the moment but that doesn’t matter, they have the easiest route possible to the final and it doesn’t need much to happen for it to all fall into place and they start winning.

    As for France vs NZ. Neither side was playing their best but that is the first time I can remember the All Blacks not dictating a game, even when they (occasionally) lose a game they are usually in it and dictating how the game is going. It was all France and they weren’t great either, I don’t think they played as well as in either of the games against us.

  12. The reality is we’d top pool D, but given tbe cards dealt we need to be at our very best to get out of our pool. Personally I don’t think there’s any silver bullet to beating SA, we just need to be at our best across every position. Accuracy, and controlled aggression. I think it’ll be close. Frankly we’re a bloody good side, and should be confident. We can do this.

  13. I dont have a good feeling about this despite all we bring to this game. Its very warm in France, SA are on form and the referee hasnt been a big fan of us in the past. We’re going to need to be at 100% for 80 minutes, open up our playbook, keep everyone on the pitch for the whole game, hope we get the bounce of the ball and hope the impartials in the crowd support us. I also fear we will miss Horne when we try to accelerate the game in the 2nd half.

    Good luck guys!

  14. I didn’t catch the England game actually, as am a rugby fan.

    Geeeeez doom and gloom above. Stop making the Boks unbeatable – they’ve gone for some leftfield selections, they’re missing their top class ten, they’ve been beaten recently by NZ and France (and not a lifetime ago by Japan) and this Scotland side is settled.

    Maybe everyone is worried about the bomb squad – that’s fair, but this Scotland team has shown that barring injury it can bounceback and come on strongest in the second half.

    In any event it is going to be a festival of rugby, and no doubt Finn will chuck it about. Better hot and dry than raining!

    Looking forward to Sam eating that pie.

  15. TV director seems to be favouring SA!

    What a half, not sure my nerves can take another 40 like that.

    Hoping for a 2nd 40 like the first France game and not 5 minute spell like the 2nd France game.

  16. Any reason clear red cards cant be applied at half-time if missed live? That was clear head-on-head with force from Kriel on Dempsey.

    Totally changes the game… especially considering SA have a 6-2 split.

  17. World rugby. Also French TV – in being bereft of replays did zeros favours.

    That result is fine, they obviously wanted it. Difficult to beat the opposition and circumstances.

    Truth be told – first half – we had two attacking line outs to score points. Both were ducked up when could have thrown to the front. Likewise Boks could have had a couple.

    Own fault, luckily still chance for redemption…

  18. Don’t think the Irish scrum will cause Scotland quite the same problems as SA did today. But if Scotland don’t deal with the breakdown much better than they have done, even during the warm up games, their WC journey go nowhere.

    1. I think that is an excellent way to put it. SA we’re just so good at the blitz and that made us look very ordinary. I coach a bit and if I was to ever to show a master class in defence it would be this game.

  19. How have we not learnt how to win our own line out? Keep it simple! So much dancing about to then completely mistime the throw or the jump or both.


  20. South Africa were better but also got the two key decisions- the red card and also the first try. I might be wrong so happy to be corrected but is the SA prop not obstructing tacklers by being in from the ball carrier at the first try? There was no ruck as De Toit was on his feet as he crossed the try line.

    Not sure what the TMO was doing? Only thing he did pick up was Russell’s no arms tackle…..

    1. Fully agree with this. Head on head which the ITV panel agreed was a big miss and confusing as Currie was sent off for it. No consistency! Thought the SA prop was offside as well during first score

  21. t Finn was shut down to a degree I didn’t expect. Great SA performance. I thought we would come through after the last scrum of the first half throwing them some doubt but they are world champions with reason.

      1. Sure but seems we had zero plans or tricks to try and navigate it? I only saw 30 min highlights (so far)but were there any clear tactics to get around the rush defense that we’ve known for literally years was coming? Feels similar to the lack of any plan from Ireland 4 years ago although the lack certainly fronted up physically this time at least for a while

  22. The Kriel head on head with Dempsey can’t have been missed due to an oversight or incompetence. Russell and Ritchie both asked the ref to have a look at it. Looked to me like they just didn’t want to look at it.

  23. Two regrets and one complaint for me.

    Too many minor errors in handling and passing, though tbf many were forced by Saffer pressure.

    Lineouts were poor, especially at potential turning points in the match.

    That Saffer midfield defence lives offside permanently and I can’t understand why they’re never pinged for it.

    Thought we’d turned it our way after the late first half scrum pen, but I suppose you should never underestimate the ability of SA just to come straight back at you.

  24. We scored 3 points in our first game in 2 successive World Cups.

    As regards the missed cards:3

    Kriel red.

    Russell: yellow ..a deliberate knock on is a yellow

    Russell: yellow…a no arms tackle after the whistle was blown

    1. 2nd Russell one wasn’t a yellow. Arendse was never stable and basically just fell into him. I actually thought that Arendse knock on was a penalty and should have been a yellow… He took out a man in the air to get his touch on the ball and never had a chance of catching it. By doing so he stopped a certain try.

    2. Don’t know what you were watching but both players were side by side ,shoulder to shoulder. No chance to use arms.The SA player ran into Russell

  25. sadly very much as I expected – plenty of effort but too many errors including the really annoying one of conceding penalties at attacking scrums. So its all about Ireland game, where I can see a repeat of today

  26. From a purely performance standpoint- dreadful line-out, I’ve said on these forums that Cherry is most reliable hooker, it was said we lost 6 line outs in their 22, that is unacceptable- why not the simple safe throw to R.Gray????
    They completely nullified Russell, often looking offside. Scrum really creaked in the 2nd half The 2 real chances we had Graham should’ve passed & Price should’ve been able to keep his grubber on the pitch.
    Other stuff – it was a red card, it was obstruction.
    We simply cannot cope with the rush defence (alas the 2 best rush defence exponents are in our group)

  27. Once more refs siding with the big boys. Wales giving away 4 penalties in red zone … no yellow. Fiji give away one penalty and yellow.

    1. I couldn’t even see a penalty offence in the maul going down, let alone a yellow. And for that to be a yellow after no yellow for wales after repeated and cynical penalties from Wales.

    2. Wales had too many red zone offences and clearly wasting time. I normally enjoy Carley as a ref but he has blown his chances of the final there and Wales cheat onwards and upwards. Head on Head in our game : Red.

  28. Does seem to be some bias from the officials towards Wales here. How many warnings do they get?

    Gutting for Fiji. Hopefully they can beat Australia and go through to the quarters.

    1. Effing shocking reffing all day. After the no-red against Kriel for identical head-head as Curry last night, plus the televised head punch on White by Allende, Angus Gardner and the TMO should be cited. Seriously, if players can be cited why not officials?

      In the Fiji game, TMO overruled by Matthew Carley so he could disallow perfectly clear Fiji grounding at a critical time. And Wales not carded for repeated try line penalties and flagrant time-wasting at the end.

      Let the judges be judged.

      1. Carley also inexplicably took about 45 seconds to call time off after that Fiji score. Basically, taking up about 20% of the remainder of the game before moving on to find an excuse to deny a clear try. I think he must have seen a nice retirement spot for himself in the Valleys.

    2. Unbelievable that Fiji didn’t win that game – was screaming at the telly when after letting Wales off with murder multiple times on the line, the Fijians got a scrum moving forwards towards the try line, he had the arm out for advantage – then suddenly blew the whistle before they could get to the line and score – WTF!!!! And then the chalked off try – I mean…there’s no way he pings that for Tier 1 nations.

      Also didn’t help that Fiji kept going for scrums in the first place if it was just to win penalties…and then ask for more scrums – go for taps FFS guys. But again, should still have won it at the death.

      So gutted that all the major games have thrown up zero shocks / underdog wins. Pretty deflating so far, really could have done with Fiji winning today, or Argentina beating England….or Scotland beating South Africa!

  29. Fiji deserved the win. Wales cynical as ever and the ref letting them get away with it until it was impossible for Fiji to catch them and then gave them some decisions.
    Still if only Scotland could tackle like Wales……

  30. The hype machine before todays match said the Scottish team is the fastest team on earth. Also this
    is the greatest Scottish team ever.. greater than the 2 teams of the 90’s. I have no problem
    with this latter statement if it stated AFTER we reach the Semi finals but saying it now is just leading
    us to look very foolish indeed(not for the first time). It generates extra and unnecessary pressure .

  31. Is it ok to be bewildered? How in the name of the wee man can Scotland still be so utterly incompetent at lineouts when Fraser Brown has gone? John Barclay on TV counted six missed today, four from Turner obviously. At one lineout, Ritchie had to look behind himself to see if his lifter was even there! You might as well put a bowtie on these hookboys and let them sing the opposition anthem. Scrum penalties? Four.

    And in the name of the other wee man, can anyone explain how our brilliant full back Stretchy Kingsmill can knock on three uncontested high balls out of three? Not as usual, but as far too often, basic 101 was missing. As was imagination. I counted two chips over the gain line to obviate the behemoth Bok mid-line rush.

    Darcy never got a look. Duhan was so far off his wing he looked like he was hiding, leaving a defensive gap like a missing molar. Neither bothered the Boks for a moment. Who, of course, were brilliant.

  32. I’m not too bothered about today. Could have been an embarrassment. It wasn’t.

    That is the best side you will ever face at a WC, and we didn’t fire a shot.

    We have to find a way into the game and beat the fukin twts. Then it is game on.

  33. Could have been a lot worse. I think we make the mistake of listening to the hype, but realistically that was damage limitation. SA are serious contenders and are never going to let Scotland compromise their plans.

    The focus now has to be on Ireland

  34. I think we just got beat by a better team unfortunately. Giving away 6, at least 3 from penalties is suicidal. You don’t get many chances against teams like SA so you absolutely have to take the ones you get, we didn’t. Scrum held up better than expected in thr first half where dare I say we had parity, worse that expected in the second half where we were mullered.

    They had a very effective game plan, our plan to deal with rush defences is give the ball to Finn Russell, and they very effectively shut him out of the game. When they charged down two of our kicks very early on I got the feeling that this isn’t going to end well. I don’t think our breakdown was bad for most of the game, we weren’t repeatedly blasted backwards but we just couldn’t get any forward momentum.

    The red card debate has been had already, will be interesting to see what happens, will the citing commissioner apply a retrospective red card. I have to admit I thought Tom Curry’s was a soft red card, the Argentinian player has jumped into him and they banged heads. But if the letter of the law is that that is a red card then it needs to be done consistently, the one yesterday was very similar in terms of the actual head contact although the circumstances were different.

    The punch in the brawl, there definitely was one I didn’t study the replays. I do feel with that type of mass brawls sometimes referees just take the executive decision to let it go, if you looked too far into it every time you would probably end up with multiple cards for each team.

    Darcy butchered a couple of chances by not passing, neither were walk ins if he passed but whoever was outside him (think it was Kinghorn for the first one and Duhan for the second) would certainly have got much further up the park.

  35. The “tone” was set by missing high balls and the line-outs misfiring.
    The sight of Finn Russell receiving the ball and having South Africans inhabiting the space was “the game”…. I said in previous post that more “Kicking options” were required. I’d have still selected and played Hastings at 15 yesterday

    1. Yeah, but we’ve only had 2 years to prepare for the rush defence and tactical ways around it, so what are we really meant to have done in that timeframe…..

      1. Sir, I thought the very same in the 1st game of the 2019 RWC v Ireland then and yesterday we seemed to have no idea no plan B and the hope that some magic from Hogg and Russell in 2019 and Russell yesterday would help us.
        We actually did well not to lose by more.
        Look through my previous entries about lack of kickers, lack of height in the back row and whilst I’ve softened toward GT would he have been sacked if Italy won at MF in the 6N??
        We’ve done well to get to where we are and SA are our worst nightmare stylistically so not all bad. Need 2 good wins before the winner take all clash v Ireland

  36. Sod’s law Kriel will be cited and banned v Ireland who will be the main beneficiary of the head on head yesterday.
    Kinghorn knocking on from the kick off set the tone. SA tactics were spot on. Faf was a menace at the scrum and all over White like a rash.

    Perhaps it’s time to consider starting Cherry in tight games where lineout will be more critical. It’s not as if Turner got the chance to showcase his strengths in the loose yesterday. It’s not just down to the hooker – the jumpers and lifters looked shaky. We need badly a new line out coach.

    I guess the one positive is (hopefully) no tournament ending injuries to key players after such a bruising game. Need to be going into Ireland full strength and not lagging behind on points/tries scored.

      1. Ireland do or at least did. Paul O’Connell.
        If we don’t have a lineout coach/specialist then we badly need one.

  37. Should we really be surprised about yesterday? All the elements were there that the Scottish team are unable to handle and haven’t really done over last few years ..,.. i.e rush defence (guess what Ireland are going to do), line outs in opposition 22 (mental block/panic), stupid penalties (at least Zandar stayed on pitch), weak mental strength etc etc etc. There didn’t seem to be any change of tactic from the players or ability to change tactics

  38. Most concerning thing is that systematically South Africa just cut down all Russell’s options with a simple blitz defence and we didn’t adjust or change it at all…we looked toothless…if its as easy as that we’ll lose 3 six nations games easily in 2024.

    That and the line out has to change…we were schooled by coaching yesterday….poor stuff.

    All that said we got some significant bad calls today. Red card…the counter ruck crucial for one of their tries was illegal…but we did more damage to ourselves than the ref did

  39. From the comfort of my armchair isn’t the best way to combat this rush/blitz defence is to simply pass the ball to someone standing a bit deeper and he kick the ball over/through (grubber) the encroaching rushers/ blitzers?? (Preferably a 50-22 kick)

    I voiced my reservations about there only being 1 guy in the 23 that can kick…. The Aussie FB (a SO by trade) showed an excellent kicking game.

    The lineout is a horribly recurring theme, even though R.Gray was playing most of the early line out balls went anywhere near him (or any other Scot for that matter).

  40. That was a bit of a thumping in all honesty, it actually wasn’t “that” competitive.

    I know some will mention the could have been, but not really, red and the Graham botch but South Africa left a lot on the table with missed kicks and looked to have gears.

    A lot of levels between the two teams

    A game like that shows how sort of nonsensical the constant whining about the teams Scotland will meet is as well.

    1. It pains me to say that I agree with this. We fired a handful of shots but nobody could argue the better team won. SA are a blunt weapon but a very effective one. Their set piece dominance (with one or two exceptions) and physicality at the breakdown / advantage line put Finn on the back foot and he struggled to put his mark on the game in his usual fashion. Fair play to SA, they came with a plan and they worked it brilliantly. If we meet again in the knockouts we have a puncher’s chance but need absolutely everything to come off (Price grubber, Darcy first half bust) and we’ll need a few lucky bounces along the way.

      Now the good news – I never thought we would win this one. I always thought Ireland was the better chance. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not favourites. But my instinct was that SA are just a worse stylistic match-up for Scotland (I know our Ireland track record isn’t exactly good!). I don’t see a lot of personnel changes being the answer as I think that’s broadly the best team we’ve got, but we need:
      Kinghorn to step up and dominate in the air;
      achieve parity at the set piece;
      reduce the penalty count;
      get the ball into Finn’s hands quicker.

      This last one is key – watch back and see the ball White had to work with. Gain line loss, counter ruck, slow ball, gain line loss, SA being a nuisance, slow ball, repeat ad infinitum.

      It’s definitely possible, but nothing less than a 10/10 performance will do. I’m keeping the faith.

      P.S. Kriel should have been a red…

  41. Having had more time o go back and review the game in detail – can’t really take too much more positive from it. The best conclusion I can come to is that we “kept the score sort of respectable”. Despite it being 6-3 at halftime there was always the dread that it was just a matter of time before the pressure overwhelmed Scotland. Before the game, I felt that we’d need to play to our very best for the whole 80 minutes to even be in with a chance, and we really did not do that.
    in terms of what can we do better next time? I’m not quite sure what can be done about being outmuscled by a bigger more powerful team?

    ..but in terms of skills and tactics, we can surely improve some? Kinghorn had a bad day, knocked on more than once, and it looked like the SA coaching team had identified that as a profitable tactic to put him under pressure with the high balls.

    Darcy Graham’s failure to move the ball out when there was a clear overlap, was a critical error. It’s harsh to blame a loss on one player and one moment, but a score for Scotland at that stage in the game really would have been huge.

    similarly, the line-out was awful and cost us dear. You simply cannot compete against the top level opposition if you cannot reliably secure (most of) your own ball.

    Just being realistic, if we perform at that same level against Ireland, they will hammer us.

    and reading through all the other comments here…can we keep it classy? it seems every time we are lamenting a disappointing Scotland performance it descends into complaining about the referees (no, there really isn’t an international conspiracy amongst rugby officials to do Scotland down) and a really unattractive blind hatred for Wales?

  42. Is there something up with the ball at this world cup? Is it just me or does the ball seem harder to hold onto in contact and difficult to pass? maybe it’d just the sweat and heat but there’s been so many players dropping the ball across all the games.

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