Boks send out World Cup warning

South Africa ran in three first-half tries on their way to a morale-boosting 27-3 World Cup warm-up win over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Scots had dominated in the opening quarter only to be floored by a burst of three Springbok tries in six dramatic minutes. Though the home brigade produced some excellent rugby, there was never a prospect of them recovering from such a devastating sequence.

South Africa coach Jake White said the contest was the ideal warm-up for the World Cup where his team will start as second favourites behind the All Blacks.

“Scotland are a fast-improving team under the stewardship of Frank Hadden and they made us work extremely hard for the victory,” said White. “It was exactly the kind of match we had wanted at this stage of our preparations and we can go forward to the tournament with certain aspects clearer in our minds.

“Scotland were never likely to be pushovers.
They have beaten France, England and Ireland in recent times—and they certainly provided us with a reminder of how hard Test rugby really is.”

Scotland coach Frank Hadden said there were more positives than negatives from the game.

“We got a massive amount out of that experience and it can only benefit us in the World Cup,” he said. “Don’t forget, this was only our second match as a unit since last spring, whereas the Springboks have had 10 games in that period, so there was bound to be a big difference between us in terms of sharpness.

“South Africa defended fantastically well. Defence will be so important in the World Cup, so you could see why they are second favourites to win the competition. From our point of view, we need to sharpen things up in the line-outs and improve our accuracy in kicking.”

The Scots were the first to launch a raid as Nikki Walker latched on to a clever offload from Rory Lamont.

Winger Walker opted to chip into space behind fullback Percy Montgomery, but his kick was too strong and it flew directly out of play.

Scotland set up another promising series of attacks. The good work was again spoiled, however, as another cross-kick over Montgomery was too heavily weighted—this time Andy Henderson being the culprit.

The home side maintained the early pressure with a surge featuring Kelly Brown, and their persistence paid off as Chris Paterson landed a straightforward penalty. His strike acted as a wake-up call to the visitors and they began to string together some potent-looking phases.

But they also had to be content with three points for their efforts, with Montgomery slotting a kick as easy as Paterson’s.

There was controversy in the 15th minute when French referee Christophe Berdos opted to turn a blind eye to a blatant high challenge by Springbok playmaker Butch James on Lamont.

South African cult hero Schalk Burger then burst into the game with a trademark 30m gallop up the centre of the pitch. But his endeavours came to nothing when the Boks were guilty of a rucking offence a few seconds later.

They kept up the momentum to snatch the opening try midway through the half. Winger Bryan Habana caught the Scottish fringe defence on the hop to cruise in under the crossbar in the wake of a scrum. Habana came racing through as an extra stand-off and was unstoppable from 10m with Paterson fatally out of position.

The South Africans added to their tally just five minutes later. Paterson was again at fault as his risky ploy of unloading in his own danger zone was punished—Jaque Fourie beating off the attentions of Lamont to finish from close range.

The match was effectively ended as a contest when the Boks broke through yet again.

Slick short-passing enabled Montgomery to get to within a couple of strides of the line before Du Preez squeezed over. Montgomery banged over his third conversion in quick succession.

Much of the action was confined to the middle portion of the pitch early in the second half until danger man Habana burst back into the picture. He set off on a mazy run towards the corner and looked certain to score. However, a brilliant cover-tackle by Lamont foiled him 5m short of the target.

The Boks remained on the offensive and they stretched their advantage by three points, thanks to another short-range penalty from the dependable boot of Montgomery.—Sapa-AFP