|Autumn international: Scotland 20-26 South Africa|
|Scotland (17) 20|
|Tries: Horne, Watson Cons: Laidlaw (2) Pens: Laidlaw (2)|
|South Africa (20) 26|
|Tries: Kriel, Pollard Cons: Pollard (2) Pens: Pollard (3) Jantjies|
South Africa got the better of Scotland for a sixth straight game after a thrilling match at Murrayfield.
The Springboks led 20-17 after a pulsating first half, during which Jesse Kriel crashed through and Handre Pollard also scored.
Centre Peter Horne finished off an epic Scotland move and Hamish Watson waltzed over after a clever line-out call.
After the break Willie Le Roux was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, but Scotland failed to take advantage.
South Africa’s power and breakdown nous allowed them to emerge from the 10 minutes a man down with their three-point lead intact as Pollard and Greig Laidlaw traded penalties.
In a bruising final quarter, Finn Russell put a long-range drop-goal just wide, before Elton Jantjies nailed a long-distance penalty to stretch the lead to six.
And the Springboks held out impressively to inflict a rare home defeat on Scotland and their second in three autumn Test matches.
Thumping occasion lives up to its billing
The masses descended on Murrayfield expecting a thumping occasion and that’s precisely what they got. Pre-match, there was an elaborate light show and pyrotechnics, but that was as nothing compared to some of the stuff that unfolded as soon as the first whistle sounded.
South Africa might be trying to evolve their game but at their core is a monstrous physicality and a gameplan to suffocate the life out of an opponent. That’s how they started – and it brought them points.
With the Springboks in his face and no other option but to kick it away, Russell’s clearance was gobbled up and the next time Scotland got their hands on the ball it was for the restart after Kriel’s try, a score that was sparked by a marvellous break by Pollard with Embrose Papier running support along with Steven Kitschoff, that most mobile of loose-head props.
Pollard converted and the Boks had their lead. For 15 minutes they had a dominance that quietened Murrayfield. That didn’t last long. Scotland’s capacity to strike from deep is a joy and the try that brought them level was another pearler in a long list of pearlers.
It started inside their own 10m line, a move that swept left to Huw Jones whose audacious pass to Sean Maitland brought the entire stadium to its feet. Away went Maitland, taking the tackle from Papier and offloading brilliantly to Jones whose timing on to the pass took him away Damian de Allende. The centre ran on and put Horne in, his midfield partner himself running a brilliant support line.
In a word, glorious.
The pity for Scotland is that they got turned over at the next ruck and when South Africa went wide the home team were stretched and Pollard had no trouble going over. The fly-half added a penalty soon after that made it 17-7 to the visitors. A time for Murrayfield to gulp hard.
Laidlaw, who kicked magnificently all day, put over a difficult penalty to calm the Scots, a precursor to a gallus score that brought them level. Stuart Hogg got them in the position to strike with a run and kick and chase that Willie Le Roux had to put into touch five metres from his own line.
From the lineout, deception galore. Scotland flung Ben Toolis in the air and Hamish Watson whipped round into the gap ahead of him, took the ball and drove over. The Springboks had been suckered.
Laidlaw’s conversion was good and it went 17-17, Pollard’s boot inching South Africa ahead again just before the break.
Springboks’ power proves enough
Scotland’s problems were obvious. At the breakdown, the Boks were nailing them. Their ball was too disrupted and too slow. That had to change. What looked like a major moment came early in the new half when Le Roux was binned for a deliberate knock-on, but South Africa came through that ten minute period well.
Laidlaw made it 20-20, but Pollard replied with another penalty. A 3-3 draw while Le Roux was off the pitch was not what Scotland were looking for. It might even have been worse. Pollard hit a post with another penalty and missed another one soon after.
Scotland had a chance to level it again, but instead of going for the posts on the hour-mark they went for touch and then got turned over on the floor. In the context of such a tight battle, it was a major call, especially when Jantjies, taking over form Pollard, boomed over a penalty from distance to give them a six-point cushion.
A try was now required for Scotland to pull it out of the fire. They had a chance, too. South Africa played precious little rugby in the second half, relying instead on the power game and their defence to get them through.
That Scotland chance came by way of an attacking lineout 10m from the South African line, but the visitors defended it thunderously, snaffled ball, cleared their lines and won an absorbing Test match.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis , Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Embrose Papier; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.