Redemption was in the air on Saturday at Murrayfield, as the young thistles faced a team who just scraped a victory over Ireland the week before and looked vulnerable against a quick, pacy attack. The Scots felt that this weekend could erase the All Black mauling and offer the home fans something to be proud of.
Unfortunately the optimism of victory died relatively quickly as the Springboks came with ample pain and aggression to bully Scotland all day and control the match throughout. Scotland made improvements in both attack and defence, offering moments of excellence to excite the fans while offering some hope for next week against Tonga and the RBS Six Nations to come.
15. Stuart Hogg – 6.5
Made poor decisions deep in Scotland’s own half, almost paying a heavy price for his error-ridden game. He did offer himself as a runner when the Scots were moving forward but his defensive positional play and relief kicking needs improving if he is to lay claim to the fullback spot.
14. Sean Lamont – 5
Started well, powering up the wings with tenacity and determination, he dragged defenders away, opening up large holes for support players. As the contest dragged on, the big winger struggled to maintain his strong play, quickly fading into the shadows with most forgetting he was even on the pitch.
13. Nick De Luca – 7
A complete contrast to last week’s horror showing. Always offering himself as a viable runner, trying to keep things moving forward. He faced a stubborn and resilient opposition but ran the course of the match, playing well in both attack and defence.
12. Matt Scott – 7
Defensively, Scotland’s best player. He faced wave after wave of Springbok attack, maintaining powerful tackling and great pressure. If Scott and De Luca can maintain this type of tandem centre play Scotland will be a very hard team to breakdown.
11. Tim Visser – 5.5
Lacked time, space and the ball. South Africa targeted him as the main attacking threat, taking him out of the contest, smothering him with powerful tackling when the ball came near him. Not as effective as last week, unable to add to his growing international try count.
10. Greig Laidlaw – 5
Poor kicking, poor positional play and an all round poor day for one of Scotland’s most consistent and reliable players. The Springboks sent their big men his way, constantly hurrying Laidlaw into making bad decisions, rushing his kicks, while finding himself on his back more than he liked.
9. Mike Blair – 4
Nothing like the player he was against the All Blacks, made no attempt to create from the ruck. Put Steenkamp in for a try, taken off after 45 minutes.
8. David Denton – 7.5
The big young back-rower is close to getting back to the form he showed during the RBS Six Nations last year. He kept the South African defence busy with his constant strong running. He again found himself isolated with his enthusiastic play while giving away silly penalties, but the young man offers clear promise for the Scots’ future.
7. John Barclay – 6
Looked eager and keen after coming in as a late replacement. Offered nothing of note in attack but his excellent defence in the tight channels limited the South African forwards’ gains.
6. Kelly Brown (C) – 7
Played well, again leading by example with excellent all round play. Always found motoring forward, setting up Pyrgos for his try. A rock in the Scots’ defence, found at every breakdown, hungry for the ball.
5. Jim Hamilton – 6
Picked-up the slack left by Gray. His strong presence and physique helped Scotland limit the Springboks’ forwards. He was dominant and consistent throughout the match, performing well all round.
4. Richie Gray – 4
Went off after 20 minutes following a hard tackle from Francois Louw. Unable to assert himself on the contest.
3. Euan Murray – 4.5
Faced a far better prop in Gurtho Steenkamp. Murray was dominated in the scrum but fared far better in defence with some excellent tackling.
2. Ross Ford – 5
Again his line-outs were very poor and inconsistent. His throwing was wayward, costing Scotland points and penalties. Aside from the line-out, he was always found offering himself as a runner at the breakdown while defending well.
1. Ryan Grant – 6
Looks more and more like an international level prop. The Glasgow player performed well in the scrum against a far heavier South African pack. Strong in the tackle while carrying out much of the grunt work needed to wear down the solid Springbok defence.
18. Dougie Hall
On for Ford, not enough time time to be rated.
19. Geoff Cross.
On for Murray, not enough time to be rated.
20. Stuart Mclnally.
21. Henry Pyrgos 8.5
On for Blair. His introduction changed the pace, momentum and drive of the Scots, he helped start the fightback with his excellent decision making and playmaking skills. One of Scotland’s most productive players, grabbing himself a great try.
22. Kyle Traynor.
23. Peter Murchie.
24. Ruaridh Jackson.
On for Laidlaw, not enough time to be rated.
25. Alaster Kellock – 4.5
On for the injured Gray. The big man struggled to stay with the pace of the contest, he quickly become a passenger in a game in which Scotland needed his presence. He was missing when the grunt worked needed doing, all round poor day for a big time player.
By Alex McLeman – Follow me @TodaysPlay