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Springbok Women fall at Scottish hurdle in opening WXV2 clash in Stellenbosch

Springbok Women fall at Scottish hurdle in opening WXV2 clash in Stellenbosch
Aseza Hele scores a try during the opening WXV2 clash between South Africa and Scotland at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on 13 October 2023. (Photo: X @WomenBoks)

South Africa’s dominance at scrum time was not enough to put away the Scottish as they lost 31-17 on Friday afternoon.

The Springbok Women went down 31-17 to Scotland in their opening WXV2 clash at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Friday afternoon, 13 October.

The Bok women were in the tightly contested clash until the dying minutes, but a first-phase try in the 75th minute by Scottish centre Lisa Thomson sealed the win for the guests.

South Africa had all the momentum in the scrums, winning a total of five penalties – however scoring no tries – off their powerful set piece but faltered at their maul defence where Scotland scored four well-worked five-pointers.

The home side exhibited an expected brilliant power game but lacked finesse in crucial moments to seal off opportunities.

“I think it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow. I thought that the girls fought with incredible heart,” Bok Women skipper Babalwa Latsha said after the clash.

“For us now, it’s [important] to keep our heads up going into this competition … We’ve got 24 hours to fix things.

“And we’ll still very much go about this game very boldly with our heads held high.

“I think the attitude and the energy is always there. I think in some stages of the game we sort of let ourselves down a bit, but picked it up very quickly.

“What’s key now for us is to just go back and review and see where we can improve again.”

Tight first half

South Africa kept the ball at close quarters in the early stage of the match, making their presence felt on attack and defence while they stuck to their set piece structure.

They were rewarded with two scrum penalties in the opening 20 minutes, but conversely lost two lineouts in the same period.

Inspirational No 8 Aseza Hele and Latsha led the physical charge with barraging runs through the Scottish guts.

A ruck penalty in front of the poles saw South Africa grab an early lead thanks to flyhalf Libbie Janse van Rensburg.

Despite the aggression in South Africa’s defence, the tackling around the ruck was shoddy as scrumhalf Mairi Mcdonald sniped nearly 50 metres and got within a whisker of scoring.

Scotland won a penalty off the ensuing attack and kicked into touch before resorting to their irrepressible maul for the first time and scoring in the corner through their No 8 Evie Gallagher.

A couple of minutes later, the Boks got their opening try.

Fullback Chuma Qawe made a marauding counter attacking run from deep within her own half to get her side inside the Scottish 22m.

An extended period of one-off forward runners overpowered the frail Scottish defence, which crumbled at the sight of Hele, who powered her way over under the sticks. The score read 10-5 after half an hour of play.

Before South Africa’s ill-discipline allowed Scotland into the game immediately after scoring as they conceded a ruck penalty, which flyhalf Helen Nelson put out on the five-metre line.

After a third attempt at the maul within three minutes, Scotland got over for their second maul try with their hooker Lana Skeldon, who went over for her first of two within 10 minutes.

Skeldon went over in the exact same fashion before the break to give the Scottish a 17-10 lead at the break.

South Africa, interestingly, chose not to contest any of the lineouts in the air before the mauls were formed and were unable to stop it once it got to ground.

Second stanza

The Boks’ ill-discipline and unforced errors followed in the second half as Janse van Rensburg missed three penalty touch finders in the first 13 minutes of the half.

Scotland made the home side pay by scoring their four-maul try, this time by loose-head prop Leah Bartlett, who went over in the corner.

With the score at 24-10 with 20 minutes to pay, the Boks showed character to get on the scoresheet again.

South Africa finally displayed the physicality that gave them go-forward in the first half late in the second half and got a rolling maul of their own going.

Replacement hooker Roseline Botes went over for her ninth try with an almighty 15m shove from the SA pack.

After more ill-discipline at ruck time from South Africa, punished by Nelson putting the ball in the corner, South Africa finally found a way of disrupting the Scottish maul with a superb sack by replacement lock Nolusindiso Booi.

But from the quick ball that followed, inside centre Thomson ran right through a vacant vacuum on defence to dot down under the poles and clinch the 31-17 win for the European side.

South Africa’s next challenge is against Italy at Athlone Stadium next Friday. DM

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