Boks pass tough test with Scots

Handre Pollard of the Springboks during the international rugby match between South Africa and England at the Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein on 16 June 2018
Handre Pollard of the Springboks during the international rugby match between South Africa and England at the Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein on 16 June 2018
Image: ©/BackpagePix

The Springboks passed a tough test on their slog through Britain and France at Murray field on Saturday‚ to add another small entry in coach Rassie Erasmus’s improving catalogue.

The 26-20 win over a very good Scotland team was the Boks’ seventh of the year and their third away win of the season‚ which is as many road wins as they achieved in two years under Allister Coetzee.

Erasmus inherited a team in disarray after two seasons of record losses and embarrassing performances. He has slowly pieced the parts back together to make the Boks a force in world rugby again.

They are still some way off the consistent standard set by New Zealand‚ Ireland and even Wales‚ who have been under the same head coaches for a collective 22 years.

The Boks are on their third coach in as many years and while their consistency and depth is not at the same level‚ they are as good as any of those teams on their day.

And even on a bad day‚ the Boks are competitive again.

Erasmus’s decision to give Embrose Papier a start at scrum-half against Scotland paid off, with the 21-year-old unflustered and effective.

Papier played a big part in the opening try for Jesse Kriel and he was calm with his decision-making from the base of rucks. His passing accuracy and speed, though‚ are under par at this level.

He took too long to get his passes away at times and they were often inaccurate and floaty. But it’s an area that hard work will improve. The rest of the ingredients are there.

And that is a good thing for the Boks‚ who went on this tour with the dual mission of winning and growing.

They have passed both with two wins from three so far while players such as Papier‚ Ivan van Zyl and S’Bu Nkosi have moved into the next phase of their Test development. The Boks have also won two tough games by showing good composure and raising their intensity and focus at critical moments.

Last week they calmly spent four minutes after the final hooter constructing the winning try against France and on Saturday they raised the pace and ferocity of their game when fullback Willie le Roux was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.

The Boks did not lose any ground during the period while he was off the field‚ landing a penalty to cancel out Scotland’s penalty for Le Roux’s infringement‚ which was a vital passage in the overall outcome.

“We’re learning how to close out games and that’s why we won this game, because Scotland were as good as us on the day‚” Erasmus said.

“The maturity of this team is starting to show because we are now winning games from tight situations. We scored three points when Willie le Roux was off the field with a yellow card.

“We did well at the break46:55, down‚ especially our work at the defensive breakdown where we managed to win vital turnovers at important times.”

Erasmus also lauded Papier‚ who made his first start in the No 9 jersey for the Springboks and had a good game next to man-of-the-match Handre Pollard.

“We thought this was the right game for him‚ on this pitch and the way Scotland play suits him well‚ and he also handled it very well.”

The Boks’ final outing of the tour is against Wales in Cardiff next week.

Wales have won the last three matches between the sides since the Boks dramatically beat them in the quarterfinals at Rugby World Cup 2015. Erasmus will again have a juggling act about blooding some players and wanting and needing to end this losing sequence against a strong Welsh side that has already accounted for Australia this November.

Scorers: Scotland Tries - Horne (18), Watson (33); Conversions - Laidlaw (19,34); Penalties Laidlaw (26, 47) South Africa Tries - Kriel (6), Pollard (20); Conversions Pollard (6, 21); Penalties - Pollard (24, 38, 49) - TimesLIVE