Sport

RWC 2023

Efficient Boks secure hard-earned win over committed but outgunned Scotland

Efficient Boks secure hard-earned win over committed but outgunned Scotland
The players of South Africa line up prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: David Rogers / Getty Images)

The Springboks are on the high road at the Rugby World Cup 2023 after beating Scotland 18-3 in their Pool B opener in Marseille, France.

Job done. One win of seven ticked off. A ferocious 10-minute explosion after halftime saw the Springboks ensure their 2023 World Cup campaign started on a bright note with a hard-earned 18-3 win over Scotland. 

Tries from Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse at the start of the second stanza settled nerves and put the outcome beyond doubt, although overall it was a little underwhelming from the defending champions. 

However, victory was the only outcome that mattered in this crucial Pool B match, with Ireland lying in wait. It was the Boks’ first opening match win at a Rugby World Cup since 2011, so they slayed another bogey. 

A South Africa fan during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

The performance was polished in that the Boks were clinical in almost every facet, but they did not have as much cutting edge as perhaps they expected. 

That was mostly due to Scotland’s hard work on defence rather than Bok errors. Still, it felt like the result should have been by a wider margin and with points difference possibly playing a role in the final analysis, will it be costly? 

Manie Libbok, who was otherwise excellent, missed three kicks from the tee and Faf de Klerk missed another. At times it felt as if the Boks were playing within themselves and doing just enough to control a match in which they were never in trouble. 

Scotland playmaker Finn Russell had almost no impact on the game, other than a cheap shot on Arendse in the first half, which only led to a penalty. 

The Scottish pack was game and earned a few scrum penalties but they conceded four in the second half, as the bone-crunching impact the Boks demand on the gain line took its toll. 

But the main objective was victory to ensure that they transferred some pressure back on to Ireland, who still have to play against Scotland, and it was met. 

Manie Libbok of South Africa in action during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Franco Arland / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images)

Finn Russell of Scotland is tackled by Kurt-Lee Arendse of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Paul Harding / Getty Images)

Kurt-Lee Arendse of South Africa celebrates with RG Snyman of South Africa after scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

First-half misses 

The Springboks were probably scratching their heads over how they went into halftime only three points to the good thanks to two Libbok penalties to the one of Russell. 

The Boks dominated territory, spending twice as much time in Scotland’s half than their opponents spent in theirs. But they didn’t use that advantage intelligently. 

The sapping heat was a factor in terms of ball handling, with both sides spilling it several times, while Scotland initially struggled when the Boks deployed the aerial game. They lost several high balls through handling errors. 

All in all though, Scotland would have gone into the break feeling a little better about their efforts. They endured a lot of pressure and more than handled it, often transferring it back to the Boks. 

Scotland perhaps had the best opportunity of the half, when they worked an overlap on the left, which only failed to yield points when Libbok made a superb tackle on wing Darcy Graham from behind. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023

Libbok wrapped Graham up, not allowing him to make the offload to a waiting Duhan van der Merwe with nothing but 15 open metres between him and the tryline. 

Early on, the Boks mixed the game plan by spreading the ball to the tips several times, immediately baulking expectations that it would be all forward power early on to combat the Scots. But they also launched contestable kicks and forced several turnovers. 

The tartan defence held firm as the Boks failed to turn the pressure into meaningful gains on the scoreboard. It’s a theme that has recurred regularly over the past three years and one they have not yet fully solved. 

It was partly down to poor execution with the last pass, but it was also a result of an excellent Scottish defence that refused to break. The Bok attack carried the ball for 228m to Scotland’s 87m in the first half alone and almost every promising attack ended down a blind alley. 

Wing Cheslin Kolbe worked tirelessly off and on the ball to make something happen, but even his ankle-breaking stepping couldn’t punch a hole through the well-organised Scotland defence. 

The Bok set piece also struggled to find its rhythm, with two attempted rolling mauls stopped, while they conceded two first-half scrum penalties. 

Pierre Schoeman more than held his own against Frans Malherbe and it didn’t help the burly Bok front-ranker that Eben Etzebeth was forced off midway through the first half. Malherbe clearly missed the power coming from behind him. 

Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa hands off Finn Russell of Scotland during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Jasper Wiese of South Africa in action during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Matt Fagerson of Scotland is tackled by Damian de Allende of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade de Marseille on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: David Rogers / Getty Images)

Upping the ante 

Immediately after halftime though, the Boks upped the ante. It was evident that they’d decided to lift their intensity immediately following the break. 

They hit rucks harder, won the breakdown convincingly and overpowered the opposition in this period. 

A nine-phase attack ended in a Bok scrum close to the line and two phases after the set piece Du Toit powered over, smashing hooker George Turner out of the way. 

Minutes later, on advantage, Libbok hit a delicate cross-field kick into the arms of a flying Kurt-Lee Arendse for his 12th Test try in only his 11th outing. 

De Klerk nailed the conversion and the 15-point gap, with half an hour to go, looked unassailable. And it was. 

The final quarter saw the Boks doing much more defending and it felt like a training drill at times, but it also showed their energy and commitment as they smothered Scotland until the end. DM 

Scorers  

South Africa – Tries: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kurt-Lee Arendse. Conversion: Faf de Klerk. Penalties: Libbok (2).

Scotland – Penalty: Finn Russell.

Craig Ray’s accommodation and travel for the opening Rugby World Cup 2023 weekend is courtesy of MultiChoice.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David Bristow says:

    Not true, Finn Russell made two try-saving tackles, so played a moerse part in the outcome. But he should have been off the field.

  • Marcel Anceaux says:

    That outfit !
    Where is the Green & Gold ?

  • Rob Wilson says:

    Pity they didn’t go for the corner on the long penalties and start Libbok off on easy ones to settle him. Watching the roles that accurate goal kicking played in the both France and England victories I trust that the brains trust know something I don’t. Scotland’s game plan was simply throttled by the Springboks. Good win.

  • tomstuart317 says:

    Why only mention the Finn Russel ”cheap shot” (which it wasn’t), but nothing about the fact Kriel was lucky to be on the pitch! Try and keep your reporting objective rather than just ram one-eyed bok fervour down your readers throats.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    On the lighter side: the take from The Guardian.
    Over 40 minutes the general effect was that Scotland came off like a man trying desperately hard to prop up an elephant’s bottom to stop it from sitting on him. It was a heroic attempt, with a predictable ending.

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