NIK SIMON: South Africa continue to innovate with Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber in charge as the Bomb Squad detonate to blow Scottish hopes into smithereens
- The Bomb Squad returned to the World Cup with a bang
- South Africa detonated to blow Scottish hope into smithereens
- With Erasmus and Nienaber still in charge, the Springboks continue to innovate
The Bomb Squad returned to the World Cup with a bang. Four years after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, South Africa detonated in the second half to blow Scottish hope into smithereens.
On the final whistle, Scotland’s players dropped to their knees. Their body language read of disappointment. Gregor Townsend’s team arrived in France on a high but the outcome here had a familiar feel.
They fought until half-time but failed to take their chances in the 22. It was an afternoon of regrets. They were left to rue the fact that Jesse Kriel escaped sanction for a high tackle after 57 seconds, with Townsend saying: ‘I saw it about two screens away. It did look like a head on head collision and I was expecting the TMO to come in to make the referee aware. There’s still inconsistencies.
‘On Saturday night a red card didn’t change the game much in Argentina’s favour so who knows? We’re obviously frustrated by that but we’re more frustrated by our own performance.’
There was a recognisable formula to South Africa’s victory. They unloaded their heavyweight bench and forced six penalties at the scrum. They swarmed Finn Russell with their defence, whacking the majestic No 10 in the ribs and giving him an extra shove on the way down.
The Bomb Squad returned to the World Cup with a bang, detonating Scotland’s hopes
Gregor Townsend’s team arrived in France on a high but the outcome here had a familiar feel
The defending champions remain as powerful as ever but they have added a dash of swagger out wide
The defending champions remain as powerful as ever but they have added a dash of swagger out wide. Mannie Libbok is the antithesis to Handre Pollard, who wore the No 10 jersey in Japan. Watch out for his box of tricks over the next few weeks. His no-look kick for Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try dispelled any lingering myths that they are boring to watch.
With Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber still in charge, the Springboks continue to innovate. They flashed red, amber and green lights from high up in the Stade Velodrome, using a traffic light system to communicate with their support staff down on the pitch.
‘In terms of the lights, it started when we played France in Marseille,’ explained Nienaber. ‘With this dome, the sound is phenomenal. You can’t hear people.
‘There’s a lot of channels where we’re talking and it’s sometimes difficult for us to talk to our support staff. It communicates the seriousness of an injury, not tactics. Red is a serious substitution, yellow is give this guy 5 or 10 minutes, and green is OK.’
With Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber still in charge, the Springboks continue to innovate
South Africa are one of the favourites for the World Cup, and put on a dominating performance
South Africa lost Eben Etzebeth to injury early in the game but the brought on the 6ft9in RG Snyman on in his place, flexing their muscle with a show of depth. He helped disrupt the Scottish lineout, which malfunctioned six times in South Africa’s 22. Libbok missed points from the kicking tee but edged his side 6-0 ahead.
Operating a strong rush defence, South Africa left space out wide and Scotland found a way around the edge. Darcy Graham broke clear to create a golden chance but he failed to throw the final pass to Duhan van der Merwe.
Scotland’s pack were up for the fight, turning over a lineout maul and winning a huge scrum penalty for three points just before half-time. But South Africa turned up the power as they unloaded their replacements. The Scots could not keep up. It’s the hope that kills you.
Libbok missed a penalty early in the second half and captain Siya Kolisi interrupted the post-match press conference to defend his No 10, as questions were asked about his goal kicking. But the play-maker quickly made amends on the pitch. Pieter-Steph Du Toit drove over to score from a forwards’ power play, before Libbok set up Arrendse on the right.
SOUTH AFRICA VS SCOTLAND TEAMS
SOUTH AFRICA: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, de Allende, Kolbe; Libbok (Le Roux 70min), De Klerk (Williams 76); Kitshoff (Nche 54), Marx (Mbonambi 49), Malherbe (Nyakane 55); Etzebeth (Snyman 26), Mostert; Kolisi, Du Toit, Wiese (Vermuelen 61).
SCOTLAND: Kinghorn, Graham (Smith 66); Jones, Tuipulotu (Redpath 68), Van Der Merwe; Russell, White (Price 68); Schoeman (Bhatti 57), Turner (Cherry 57), Z Fagerson (Nel 57); R Gray, Gilchrist (Cummings 57); Ritchie, Darge, Dempsey.
There are signs of evolution from the Springboks and that is ominous for their World Cup rivals. ‘Rugby has changed a little bit since 2019,’ said Nienaber.
‘You must still have a good defence game, kicking game and territory game to grind out a win. But you need to be able to score points and that’s the difference between 2019 and 2023. If you look at the Prem final, the French final, the Japan final, the teams that win those games have the ability to score points.’
‘This was a slippery one for us. Scotland play with great speed and they’ve got good innovation how they attack so we had to be really sharp to cut off all their options. They can create something miraculous out of nothing.’
But it was South Africa who took control in the second half, with two try-saving tackles from Russell stopping Cheslin Kolbe and Grant Williams from breaking clear. Both teams failed to leave with the bonus point, which could be crucial in one of the toughest pools in the competition, but there is a sense that something is brewing in the South African quarters.
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