South Africa 43
THREE late tries eased South Africa to a comfortable victory in the end, but this opening round match of the U20 World Championship was a much tighter contest than the final score-line suggests. While Carl Hogg’s side will look back and wonder if it is result that they let slip through the fingers through errors and inaccuracies at key moment, they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves.
They battled heroically on the back foot for long periods against a very physical, well-drilled and dynamic opposition – and they managed to produce a few positive periods of their own. Errors at key moments did cost the young Scots, but that’s part of the learning curve of this Under-20s programme. With their scrum under serious pressure, they were living on meagre rations and had to force the issue as a consequence, which is when mistakes tend to happen. South Africa were ruthless when they got a sniff and there is absolutely no doubt that they were worthy winners.
There is no time for Scotland to feel sorry for themselves. With New Zealand looming over the horizon in just four days’ time, they need to get right back on the horse. There is plenty psychological sustenance the team can feast on from this experience – the big questions relate to the physical toll of these 80 bruising minutes. Hogg will have to mix up his squad, so quite a few players who have only had fringe roles so far this season are likely to be given an opportunity to either sink or swim.
South Africa delivered an early portent of their scrummaging superiority on the first occasion the two packs came together. They pushed Scotland off their own ball and the generally excellent Grant Hughes was caught offside as he tried to halt momentum in the middle of the park. Jaden Hendrikse dissected the posts, having missed two earlier shots at goal.
It had been a fairly torrid opening 10 minutes for the young Scots, but once they found their feet they managed to implement the ‘SAS’ (speed and smart) game-plan which Hogg has been drilling into his players all season, and, after several minutes of sustained pressure playing high-tempo rugby, they got their reward when Murphy Walker picked up at the base of a close-range ruck and rumbled over.
But Scotland then failed to deal with the restart and South Africa bounced right back through No 8 Francke Horn, who burst onto Hendrikse’s neat inside pass and powered home from 25-metres.
That was the cue for South Africa to ramp up the pressure and they spent the next 15 minutes camped deep inside Scottish territory – however, a combination of Baby Bok inaccuracy in attack (they fumbled four times with the line at their mercy) and Scottish defensive resilience, meant the score-line remained 10-5 until four minutes before the break, when the deadlock was finally broken by an incisive, arcing run from stand-off James Mollentze, who then sent Hendrikse in for the try.
Scotland were in all sorts of bother at scrum time, but their line-out was pretty sharp and it was that weapon which got them back into the game when South African second-row Emile van Heerden cynically collapsed a catch-and-drive as it rumbled relentlessly towards his team’s line – with referee Craig Evans quickly conferring with his touch-judge before awarding a penalty-try and issuing a yellow-card for good measure.
The extra man
That meant Scotland played the first ten minutes of the second half with an extra man. They had their chances during this period but couldn’t quite hold onto the ball at the key moment, and actually ended up falling further behind a few seconds before van Heerden returned when Horn and Hendrikse once again combined to devastating effect – although this time the No 8 was the creator with a well-timed pass to the scrum-half.
Scotland bounced right back into it when Connor Boyle’s brilliance over the tackled man earned a penalty in the middle of the park which Thompson kicked to the corner, and after sucking South Africa in with a powerful line-out drive at the tail, the ball was sent back towards the touchline, with slick hands from Thompson sending Cameron Anderson in unchallenged on the right.
With Thompson adding the conversion, it was now a three-point game, but Scotland again failed to clear their lines from the restart, and they paid the price when JJ van der Mescht powered over, and Hendrikse added the extras to extend the gap back out to 10 points.
That try seemed to break Scotland’s resolve and after a miscued line-out they found themselves even further behind, with Mollentze once again the architect, with his excellent break and slick hands gifting replacement scrum-half Sanele Nohamba the perfect first touch.
South Africa finished with a flourish when Nohamba fed the ball off the deck to Phepsi Buthelezi, and prop Kudzai Dube arrived on the scene like a train to finish the move off.
South Africa: V Isaacs; A Davids, M Potgeiter, R Pretorius, C Dingaan; J Mollentze, J Hendrikse (S Nohamba 61); D Bleuler (K Dube 72), F Mbatha, A Ntlabakanye (K Glade), J van der Mescht, E van Heerden, J Labuschagne (D Richardson 50), P Buthelezi, F Horn (D Venter 60).
Scotland U20s: M Davidson (O Smith 70); R McMichael, C Anderson, G Hughes (R McCallum 70), J Blain; R Thompson, R Frostwick (M Scott 63); M Walker (A Nimmo 68), E Ashman (R Jackson 74), E McLaren (W Hurd 68), E Johnson, C Henderson, M Sykes, C Boyle, T Marshall (K van Niekerk 54).
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
South Africa: Tries: Horn, Hendrikse 2, van der Esch, Mohamba, Dube; Cons: Hendrikse 3, Nohamba 2; Pen: Hendrikse.
Scotland: Tries: Murphy, Penalty Try, Anderson; Con: Thompson.
Scoring sequence (South Africa first): 3-0; 3-5; 8-5; 10-5; 15-5; 17-5; 17-12 (h-t) 22-12; 22-17; 22-19; 27-19; 29-19; 34-19; 36-19; 41-19; 43-19.
Yellow cards –
South Africa: van Heerden