Cape Town – On many other days, a fired-up Scotland would have prevailed before their animated home crowd.
Instead South Africa admirably gate-crashed the party at Murrayfield on Saturday, where the Scots had only lost one Test match in their last 11 … and that to New Zealand.
So for all their anxious moments, the Springboks deserved great kudos for eking this earthy – though occasionally fast-paced and easy on the eye, too -- contest out 26-20, a signal of growing maturity.
The victory (they are now two from three on Euro tour) was engineered largely on the basis of the mountainous industry and physical relish of their pack as a unit, where there were no shirkers.
But the cause was also splendidly served on his occasion by a purposeful pairing at vital nine and ten, where Bulls duo Embrose Papier, on maiden start, and more seasoned Handre Pollard pulled the strings with aplomb.
Here’s how I rated the Boks at Murrayfield:
Willie le Roux: 6.5
Undeserved second-half yellow card for a “knockdown” when it looked for all money as if he was genuinely seeking an intercept. Still, Le Roux’s experience came handily to fore in this game. Some excellent, difficult aerial grabs and alert moments of cover defence.
S’bu Nkosi: 6
Demonstrated the necessary conviction for the cause throughout his hour or so. Alert to tidying-up needs, though conceded a penalty for being off feet at breakdown.
Jesse Kriel: 7
Stayed solid as a rock defensively at outside centre, and showed off his leg power in a few attacks. Emphatic bust-in for his first-half try.
Damian de Allende: 5.5
Improved on lethargic French showing, but still below his effervescent best here. Nevertheless, helped effect a first-half turnover and brought down a flying Huw Jones from behind when a home try threatened.
Aphiwe Dyantyi: 5.5
Disappointingly little action on his side of the field. Scurried around trying to be constructive, including stepping nicely in claustrophobic space, but spilled one aerial ball forward.
Handre Pollard: 8
Stirring tour form continued, and this was his best game of the three so far. Oozed authority at No 10 and repeatedly took the ball majestically to (and over) the advantage line. Vital hand in first try and scorer of the second, while all of his first five kicks at posts sailed over consummately. Defence wonderful at vital times. One or two mistakes, but they seemed near-inevitable for so involved a character …
Embrose Papier: 7.5
One of the most rounded scrumhalf displays, in a sometimes problem berth, since Fourie du Preez walked into the sunset after RWC 2015 … take a bow, Mr Papier! Stats suggest he made more than a pass a minute (80, and he was on the park for 78) while his few box kicks were largely effective. Cleverly adjusted his running angle to bamboozle Scottish defence in lead-up to Kriel’s memorable try.
Duane Vermeulen: 7
Much more comfortable back in his favourite berth, and his world class was confirmed as he had a knack of positive interventions at critical junctures. The best Bok breakdown customer, with two or three poaches. Also demonstrated reliable hands and made one especially door-busting carry from a kick-in.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7.5
Massive part, as has become so customary, in ensuring Boks doused Scottish passions in the pure physicality stakes. When he makes tackles, they can be real rib-rattlers, and his leg-drive in limited space was admirable at Murrayfield. Speed about the turf eye-opening, too.
Siya Kolisi: 7
Best game of tour after quiet first two. Rumblings about a possible citing for back-of-head “butt” as he tried to free himself from a Scottish defender trapping him away from play, but generally he breathed renewed fire, with impactful counter-rucking, consistent tackling and one precious steal.
Franco Mostert: 6.5
A little more punch as a ball-carrier would be a cherry on top, but continues to run the Bok lineout adeptly, and stats suggest he topped Bok tackle count with 13.
RG Snyman: 7
His development at Test level only gathers pace; deputised admirably for injured pack meanie Eben Etzebeth at four lock. Secure at front of lineout, industrious in general play and made memorable rampage and off-load in build-up to first Bok dot-down.
Frans Malherbe: 6.5
The tighthead who doesn’t seem to know the expression “go backwards” in the scrums; so reliable now in that department. Pulled weight in general play, without being too prominent. Penalised once for needless side entry to ruck.
Malcolm Marx: 6
Continues on this tour -- and by his lofty standards – to look a little short of warranting his “world’s best hooker” mantle. Missed a tackle in move leading to first Scottish try, and slightly subdued here as factor on deck. Lineout accuracy back on up, though.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
Got the better of “compatriot” WP Nel at scrum-time, where he won two penalties and conceded one. Much more like the Kitshoff of old again as a dynamic carrier, including thunderous surge in lead-up to first Bok try.
Elton Jantjies: 7
Perhaps he might not like to hear this, but becoming increasingly valuable as a “supersub”. Got 24 minutes at flyhalf as Pollard shifted seamlessly to No 12 and looked cool, composed and resourceful. Others to inject pleasing oomph off bench included Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi and Cheslin Kolbe.
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