|South Africa: (6) 18|
|Tries: Du Toit, Arendse; Pens: Libbok 2; Con: De Klerk|
|Scotland: (3) 3|
Scotland slipped to defeat in their World Cup opener as defending champions South Africa put in a typically ruthless and powerful display in Marseille.
After a fraught and physical first half in which Scotland’s forward pack put in an abrasive performance, two quick Springbok tries took the game away from Gregor Townsend’s side.
Pieter Steph Du Toit crashed over for the first before a wonderful no-look cross-field kick from Manie Libbok put in Kurt-Lee Arendse for another score four minutes later.
From there, the world champions turned the screw at the set-piece and wore down an increasingly ragged Scotland.
The Scots will point to a potential red card for Jesse Kriel for a dangerous tackle in the opening three minutes which was missed by officials, but they were also undone by errors in key moments, particularly at the lineout where six went astray in promising positions.
Townsend’s side now face an uphill task to get out of the fiendishly-difficult Pool B, which also includes the world’s number one-ranked side Ireland, while South Africa got their title defence off to a solid start and face Romania next Sunday.
Scotland have a two-week wait to right their wrongs when they take on Tonga in Nice.
Scotland suffocate under pressure
Much was said about Scotland needing to play this game at a ferocious tempo; to take the ball away from a humungous Springbok pack.
That never materialised at any point, but in the first half the way the forwards went about taking the game to their opposite numbers was admirable.
A scrum penalty right on half-time felt significant when Finn Russell kicked over to make it 6-3 at the break, Libbok having put over two of his three efforts before that.
But it proved the high point for Scotland as South Africa brutally re-asserted control. Du Toit was eventually the man to batter past the dark blue defensive line on 47 minutes, and they swiftly did more damage.
Defensive pressure forced Scotland back and eventually a turnover yielded ball for Libbok who, having been somewhat wayward off the tee, produced the moment of the match as his effortless kick enabled Arendse to scamper in.
There seemed no way back for Scotland at that point. Penalties mounted, lineouts failed to find targets, and their attack never fired a shot under South Africa’s blitz defence.
Although, had Darcy Graham utilised a two-man overlap in the first half, things might have been different. As it was Scotland ended without a try, or even a second-half point, to show for their efforts.
Other than Libbok’s moment of brilliance, there was no champagne rugby from South Africa. After a scrappy first 40 they merely doubled down on what makes them a nightmare to play against.
A blitz defence to shut down Scotland’s attack forced errors, and that was always followed by a strong set-piece and physical dominance.
It was not a performance that will make other sides sit up and take notice – like the demolition of New Zealand in their final warm-up – but they turned up the heat just enough to burn Scotland.
Though they can also consider themselves lucky Kriel’s tackle on Jack Dempsey, which resulted in a head clash, escaped without punishment.
The Springboks will also expect to improve as they eye a massive meeting with Ireland on 23 September at the Stade de France.
South Africa: Willemse, Arense, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe, Libbok, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Marx, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi, Du Toit, Wiese.
Replacements: Mbonambi, Nche, Nyakane, Snyman, Van Staden, Vermeulen, Williams, Le Roux.
Scotland: Kinghorn, Graham, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe, Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Darge, Dempsey.
Replacements: Cherry, Bhatti, Nel, Cummings, M Fagerson, Price, Redpath, Smith.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)