South Africa got the defence of their title off to an impressive start on Sunday when a second-half surge allowed them to overpower a toothless Scotland 18-3 to move into a strong position in the World Cup’s “group of death”.
Two tries in three second-half minutes from flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse pulled the Springboks clear and Scotland were unable to find a way back into the contest, barely threatening the South African tryline all game.
Scotland now face a difficult road to qualify from Pool B for the quarter-finals and will likely have to beat Ireland when the teams meet in their final group game in Paris on Oct. 7 to stand a chance.
Scotland matched South Africa’s power in the opening 40 minutes and trailed 6-3 at the break, still in the contest without creating many scoring opportunities.
Once the Boks’ powerful forwards came off the bench in the second period, there was another shift in momentum and they were able to comfortably keep the Scots at bay.
That being said, the best chance of the first half fell to the northern hemisphere side as wing Darcy Graham created a three-on-one opportunity but held onto the ball when he needed to release a team mate to canter over the Bok line.
South Africa lost lock Eben Etzebeth after 26 minutes, replaced by RG Snyman, and that changed the dynamic of a scrum battle they had been winning to that point.
Scotland forced a penalty from the set-piece in their own 22, and then shortly afterwards another in range for Russell to secure three points and halve the deficit on the stroke of halftime.
South Africa came out with renewed intensity in the second period, smashing their opponents backwards at the scrum to earn a penalty that put them in Scotland’s 22.
From there they moved the ball through phases, gaining a few metres at a time, before Du Toit crashed over from close range.
One try became two three minutes later as Libbok spotted Arendse in acres of space on the right wing and his cross-kick was perfect for the diminutive back to score in the corner.
It was poor defending and a sucker-punch for the Scots, who in truth were out of the contest after 50 minutes and were easily shut-out by the Boks.
South Africa play their second pool game against Romania in Bordeaux next Sunday, while Scotland have to wait two weeks before they take on Tonga in Nice on Sept. 24.