Springboks defeat Scotland at Murrayfield: Key Thoughts

South Africa's centre Jesse Kriel (R) and South Africa's fly-half Handre Pollard celebrate their win on the pitch after the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and South Africa at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh on November 17, 2018. (Photo by Andy BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday, an expectant Scottish crowd saw the Springboks defeat Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

Their expectations were not unreasonable. Before Saturday’s encounter, Scotland had lost at home only once. That was against the All Blacks in 2017. In this time, they have racked up home wins against England, Ireland, Wales, France and Australia.

Springboks defeat Scotland

Scotland 20 South Africa 26

Before we discuss our key thoughts, let’ts take a look at the scoreboard:

Scotland 20 – Tries: Peter Horne and Hamish Watson Conversions: Greig Laidlaw 2 Penalties: Laidlaw 2

South Africa 26 – Tries: Jesse Kriel and Handre Pollard Conversions: Pollard 2 Penalties: Pollard 3 and Elton Jantjies

So what came out of this game that you need to know about for the Monday morning water cooler chat?

Handre Pollard’s best game in a Springbok jersey

Pollard was phenomenal in this game and was a deserved Man of the Match. He seems to have regained his confidence kicking off the tee, but it was his running game and tackling that really stood out.

This is the kind of performance that he needs to provide just about every weekend in order for the Springboks to become and remain a world-beating team. Is Erasmus’s continuity in selection starting to pay off?

The rise of Embrose Papier

When it became apparent that Faf de Klerk might not be available for some of the Springbok Test matches, there were a lot of opinions regarding who would be rushed into the squad. Cobus Reinach appeared to be leading contender according to most fans. Erasmus stuck to his guns though and backed his chosen three scrumhalves. De Klerk, Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier. Louis Schreuder was called in as injury cover and it looks like he will get no game time.

With De Klerk returning to the Sale Sharks this weekend, young Papier was thrown into the fray to earn his first starting cap. A role he filled with aplomb. His kicking from the base, an integral part of the Springboks game, was certainly up to scratch. This role was shared with flyhalf Handre Pollard. If Papier and Pollard can regularly produce this quality of performance, the Springboks can bank on on a halfback combination of real quality, including the claims of the current jersey holder De Klerk.

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The obligatory controversy

Before the “leave the ref alone” brigade pull their knives out. No, we are not calling this as the biggest moment in the game. Once again, we saw a refereeing decision that had social media going into meltdown. What is it with the Springboks and French referees? Willie le Roux’s attempt to intercept a floated Scotland pass was clumsy. He would have done a lot better to try to catch the ball with two hands instead of one.

The result of the clumsy attempt at an intercept? A knock on. It was deemed to be a deliberate knock on and Le Roux was sent to the naughty chair for ten minutes. The problem we have here is one of intent and impact. If this happened ten meters from the Springbok line, there can be no complaints and a yellow card  and penalty try might have been debatable but not controversial. In this case, it was 70 meters from the Springbok line. At best a penalty. A try was not “probable” or even “possible”, so a yellow card is surely a little bit over the top.

One more to go

The Springboks have one more game to go to close out what has been a tough first year in charge for Erasmus. The Springboks face Wales next weekend. Last year, they lost by two points and will want to avenge that defeat and prove that they are a team on the rise.

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