Stop-start test match with plenty of injuries sets up Samoa clash
The Springboks were given a massive fright before fighting back to beat Scotland in their test match in the Castle Quadrangular series in Nelspruit yesterday.
The Scots overturned prematch predictions of a massacre and shocked the Springboks by taking a 17-6 lead shortly after half time.
Eventually, however, the size and relentless bashing by the Boks told and Jean de Villiers’ men scored three tries to clinch their second win of the season following their victory over Italy in Durban the previous week.
The Scots had made the worst start possible when no one came to collect Steyn’s opening kick-off, but instead of the Springboks settling into the steady scoring procession most had expected, it was the visitors who gradually silenced the crowd.
The Scots got the first points of the game with a penalty by their captain Greig Laidlaw and also the first try when a missed tackle by Strauss allowed Tommy Seymour to chip over Basson and charge up to the Boks’ line.
Seymour had breached the Boks’ defensive structure and when the ball came back from maul the Scots had numbers in reserve, allowing Matt Scott to break back and score at the posts.
The Scots had clearly studied the Springbok patterns well and used cutbacks with success, counter-rucked vigorously and pushed the envelope on the offside line, with particularly flanker Alasdair Strokosch being allowed plenty of liberties by French referee Romain Poite with the way he was allowed to hit rucks and mauls in the side or play the Bok pillars without the ball.
But the Boks were lazy in marking, were lackadaisical in guarding of the fringes, slipped off tackles and were guilty of not getting numbers to the melees, with too many forwards standing off and too few doing the work.
Instead of upping the pace, the Boks were downright pedestrian, walking to line-outs, lacking urgency and constantly gathering for parleys as though on a bird watching outing in the nearby Kruger Park.
A stop-start test match with plenty of injuries did not enthuse the crowd and the Scots had a massive upset in their sights when they scored again soon after the restart as fullback Peter Murchie skidded in at the corner.
But this was the shock the Boks needed. A penalty kicked to the corner, followed by a strong drive got Strauss over for their first try and when, soon afterwards, lock Jim Hamilton shoved Eben Etzebeth in the face and got yellow carded it was as though someone had flicked a switch and the fervour and passion that had been missing finally materialised.
A try by JJ Engelbrecht in the 55th minute gave the Boks the lead for the first time in the match and finally the good folk started to get the entertainment they had hoped for and had paid far too much for.
In yesterday’s curtain-raiser Samoa set up a clash with the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday by whipping Italy 39-10.
The Samoans were just too slick for the Italians and quickly made sure of the points buffer they needed to achieve their goal of a decider against the Springboks in the quadrangular series that has seen the novelty of two internationals played at the same venue on the same afternoon.
With Samoa having beaten Scotland in their first game in Durban and Italy having gone down to South Africa the Italians went into their game needing to either win by more than 10 points or win with a bonus point for tries.
But when Samoa’s skipper Paul Williams, the son of former All Black great Bryan “BeeGee” Williams, scored the opening try after seven minutes and converted it himself the target margin grew by another seven points and it was soon apparent the task was beyond a stilted Italian side.
Italy will play Scotland in the curtain-raiser at Loftus.
Although Samoa, thanks to the skills honed in Sevens, were able to outflank the Italians with their instinct for counterattack allied to slick interpassing and sharp changing of angles, they did not look to have the material to unduly trouble the Springboks.
Italy sporadically threatened to break through, but lacked the composure in the red zone to translate their build-up work into tries and when the score blew out to 32-3 going into the final quarter, Samoa were able to relax, bring on their subs and start preparing for their march to Pretoria.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer would have taken note of the fact that Italy’s powerful scrum had the satisfaction of having their powerful scrum rewarded with a penalty try awarded by referee Craig Joubert against the big, but less than energetic, Samoans while the islanders will also be up against it in the line-outs against South Africa.
In other international matches yesterday, the All Blacks clinched their series against France by winning the second test 30-0 in Christchurch while Japan celebrated their finest moment by beating a depleted Wales, the current Six Nations champions who don’t have a large number of British Lions, 23-8.
In Sydney, the British & Irish Lions beat the Waratahs 47-17 and Tonga accounted for the USA 18-9.
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