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South Africa hand Scotland powerful lesson ahead of RWC showdown


A RELENTLESS assault by the Springboks at the scrum and lineout set the platform for a 30-15 win at Murrayfield on Saturday. While Scotland will dust themselves off to prepare for the next challenge against Japan, they would do well to take these set-piece lessons to heart ahead of their next meeting against the Boks at the World Cup in France.

The defending world champions will play Scotland in Marseille on 10 September 2023. Given what unfolded at Murrayfield this past Saturday, the Boks have every reason to believe that they can win that Pool B fixture. Scotland, by contrast, have plenty to rectify – particularly at the scrum and lineout – in the lead-up to a game that could define their World Cup campaign.

The Boks destroyed Scotland at the set pieces. The starting front-row combination of Ox Nché, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane forced the hosts to concede three scrum penalties in the first half alone.

Coach Jacques Nienaber opted to deploy his Bomb Squad – the nickname given to the South African bench – before half-time. The “reserve” front-row combination of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch won two more scrum penalties. The trio also proceeded to wreak havoc around the breakdowns.

It’s fair to say that the Boks have dealt Scotland a significant psychological blow ahead of the next meeting at the World Cup. Bok scrum coach Daan Human may feel that he has won bragging rights over Pieter de Villiers, the South African born coach currently in charge of the Scotland set piece.

“I made a joke that Daan should give his win bonus to the front rows,” Nienaber quipped afterwards. “It was an excellent performance by both combinations.”

Nienaber was pleased with the 30-15 scoreline, and highlighted the fact that Scotland are one of the finest defensive teams in the northern hemisphere.

That said, if the Boks may have won by a greater margin had they converted all of their set-piece dominance into points. While their scrum and lineout fired, they failed to take their chances in the first half and went to the break trailing 10-8.

While Nienaber lamented the missed chances in the first half, he felt that the strategy to attack the Scotland set piece was always going to pay dividends at a later stage. The Boks scored 22 points in the second stanza against a tired Scotland defence.

“When a snake bites you, and the venom starts going through your body, you don’t die immediately. You die much later,” Nienaber explained.

“Everyone thinks Scotland is a great attacking team, but they’ve actually been the best defensive team in the northern hemisphere in 2020 and 2021, as they conceded the least points in the Six Nations and the Autumn Internationals. So we always knew it was going to be tough to break them down.

“We turned down about five kicks at goal in the first 12 minutes. We had momentum at that stage, so we went for the lineout. We knew that if we kept on knocking, they would eventually tire. We hoped to get a few opportunities at the back end of the match, and it turned out that way.”

While the Boks have room for improvement – and will have to improve if they are going to beat England, who thumped Australia 32-15 at Twickenham on Saturday – they boast the strongest scrum in the game, as well as one of the most versatile packs.

It’s worth noting that the South Africans have travelled to the northern hemisphere this November without a host of injured forwards, such as tighthead prop Frans Malherbe and 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit. Lock RG Snyman – a key member of the Bomb Squad at the 2019 World Cup – will make his return to the team in 2022.

The absence of these superstars – and other regulars such as scrumhalf Faf de Klerk like wing Cheslin Kolbe – has provided opportunities for fringe players to receive more game time, and bolstered the depth of the squad. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, flank Kwagga Smith and prop Vincent Koch may be big names at their respective clubs, but are only getting their chance in the South African matchday squad on this tour due to the number of injuries.

It’s something that Scotland coach Gregor Townsend and his management team would do well to keep in mind. While the Boks have a number of great options, the team that played this past Saturday excluded a number of stars.

It certainly won’t get any easier for Scotland if Malherbe, Du Toit, De Klerk and Kolbe are all available for the next clash between the two sides at the 2023 World Cup.





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