Basically a punishing performance for the Scots

17/11/2013, TSPL, Scotsman, Sport, Rugby, Viagogo Autumn Test Scotland v South Africa, Murrayfield, Scotland.  Willem Alberts (no7) goes over to score the opening try for South Africa.    Pic Ian Rutherford
17/11/2013, TSPL, Scotsman, Sport, Rugby, Viagogo Autumn Test Scotland v South Africa, Murrayfield, Scotland. Willem Alberts (no7) goes over to score the opening try for South Africa. Pic Ian Rutherford
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Against Japan it was a joy to see Scotland play open running rugby (in the second half at least) with most passes sticking and for once doing the basics right.

Fast forward eight days and we saw the old mistakes return, and even though conditions were not ideal, it was these errors which ultimately handed the game to South Africa on Sunday, and they were happy to pounce on them and punish the Scots.

The first half saw the Springboks dominate possession and territory. Right from the off they showed their strength, grabbing a score through sheer power and nous in just four minutes. It was credit to Scotland’s defence that they managed to keep the opposition from scoring again for quite some time, until a loose pass from Ruaridh Jackson to Sean Maitland was lapped up by Willie Le Roux, who ran in unopposed.

A minute later he was at it again, skipping past Greig Laidlaw to find himself in space. He noticed JP Pietersen on his right, and judging his kick ahead to perfection, JP ran on to collect the ball and dive over. Leaking 14 points in a matter of seconds knocked the stuffing out of Scotland and it was a case of damage limitation.

It was a much better second half for Scotland who had the ball a lot more and indeed won the possession and territory count convincingly, but apart from one occasion when Max Evans and Brian Habana raced to get to the ball over the try line late on, you never really felt that the Scots would cross the South African line at all, and so it proved.

There were two interpretations of what happened in the second half. First that South Africa, once they had scored their fourth try thanks to another powerful pack rumble, decided to take their foot off the gas with one eye on the French game this weekend, and sharpen up on their defensive skills. A second opinion is that Scotland genuinely upped their game and knocked their opponents off their stride, causing them real problems. It certainly was a very disappointing afternoon. Not to score any points is always a depressing statistic and with the South Africans not appearing to get out of second gear yet winning the try count 4-0 that added to the frustration, especially when the signs were there towards the end of the game against Japan that things were moving forward. Ross Ford was very good against the Japanese but his throwing in at the line-outs was not up to the required standard, and he will be the first to admit it.

With Australia beating Ireland on Saturday and looking to end their tour with a win, the Scots have a real challenge on their hands this weekend, but one they will rise to.

The Scots always seem to come good when least expected, and if they manage it this time it will be a third straight win over the Aussies, which would be remarkable.