Springboks looking to complete the job
South Africa last night arrived in London for Saturday’s date at Twickenham just itching for the first 80-minute performance of their tour and with it, they hope, a clean sweep of England, Ireland and Scotland that will go some way towards restoring their confidence.After coming third in the Rugby Championship – the Southern Hemisphere’s version of the Six Nations – and within a whisper of losing to the debutants, Argentina, the Springboks badly needed three from three on their autumn adventure, even if half of their first-choice team were at home nursing injuries.
“Three in a row hasn’t happened for a while,” their coach Heyneke Meyer said. After pulling themselves up by their bootstraps following a poor first half in Dublin a week ago they dominated for the first 50 minutes in Edinburgh, but the target is to go 20 per cent better against England.
Francois Louw, official man of the match against Scotland and, according to Meyer, close on being the best Springbok in their last four games, batted away anything sounding too much like praise. “It hasn’t been easy,” said the Bath flanker given a second chance under the Meyer regime. “It’s been a fight both games. In Dublin we had a horrible first half. We were ill-disciplined and we gave away penalties. Tonight it was a massive defence effort. Our discipline was a little bit better – it’s still hindering us a bit – but our boys stood up in defence, although in the last 30 minutes we gave them too much ball and let them run with it.”
The truth, as the Scotland coach, Andy Robinson, came close to conceding, is that for 47 minutes, until the Glasgow scrumhalf, Henry Pyrgos, arrived to replace Mike Blair, South Africa so dominated the game that the Scots looked as bereft of hope as they did ideas.
The hooker, Adriaan Strauss, celebrated his 27th birthday a day early with two tries, one of them a near-balletic, finger-tip interception and 30-metre sprint to the line, the 21-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth proved he is someone for the future as did Juan de Jongh, the 24-year-old Western Province centre, while Louw was everywhere, an openside flanker who adds balance to a backrow traditionally dominated by ball-carrying giants. As Louw agreed, many names will have been added to Meyer’s list of possibilities for the 2015 World Cup.
As for Scotland, the future is next week against Tonga that will not improve on their likely seeding of number 10 in the world and the guarantee of another rough World Cup ride similar to the one they suffered in New Zealand last time.
SCOTLAND:Hogg; Lamont, De Luca, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw, Blair; Grant, Ford, Murray, Gray, Hamilton, K Brown, Barclay, Denton. Replacements: Jackson for Laidlaw (68), Pyrgos for Blair (47), Hall for Ford (68), Cross for Murray (68), Kellock for Gray (22). SOUTH AFRICA:Kirchner; Pietersen, de Jongh, de Villiers, Hougaard; Lambie, Pienaar; Steenkamp, Strauss, J du Plessis, Etzebeth, J Kruger, Louw, Alberts, Vermeulen. Replacements: M Steyn for Lambie (74), H van der Merwe for Steenkamp (61), Brits for Strauss (76), van der Linde for J du Plessis (52), F van der Merwe for J Kruger (68), Coetzee for Alberts (53). Referee: George Clancy (IRFU).