Home Rugby World Cup 2023 Springboks smother Scotland to begin Rugby World Cup title defence

Springboks smother Scotland to begin Rugby World Cup title defence

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After a nervy start, the Springboks scored two tries in the second half to beat Scotland in the opening match of their Rugby World Cup title defence on Sunday evening.

Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx carries the ball as Kurt-Lee Arendse and Siya Kolisi support during their Rugby World Cup game against Scotland at Stade de Marseille in Marseille on Sunday
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx carries the ball as Kurt-Lee Arendse and Siya Kolisi support during their Rugby World Cup game against Scotland at Stade de Marseille in Marseille on Sunday. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

The Springboks began their defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in imposing style when they suffocated the dangerous Scotland team to death in Marseilles but the 18-3 score also exposed some concerns for the champions.

The pre-tournament question of whether the Boks have a flyhalf who can kick the big goals when it matters was highlighted when part-time kicker Faf de Klerk had to take over from misfiring Manie Libbok, who otherwise had a strong outing.

If the champions are to be successful, they have to have an accurate goal-kicker and this they currently do not have.

Otherwise, the Boks were very impressive in shutting the Scots out of the game, notably with a rush defence that smothered the dangerous Scotland backline out of the game.

Despite the Boks wearing a strip that was surely thrust upon them by vengeful aliens, they started like the team the country knows and loves and sincerely hopes will soon wear the green and gold of old.

Ten minutes of pressure from the Boks resulted in a scrum penalty that was nudged wide by Manie Libbok in an unfortunate of start for the flyhalf, but two minutes later he got it right to give his team their first points of the tournament.

Scotland was unable to get out of their half and on 25 minutes Libbok turned a penalty into three more points. As the flags went up, Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth left the field with an injury, replaced by RG Snyman.

At this point, Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell did an impersonation of Owen Farrell and charged into Cheslin Kolbe with no arms offered, and how he escaped without a card is a mystery.

A penalty was given to the Boks by referee Angus Gardner but it should have been more.

A minute before the break, the Scots enjoyed a psychological boost when they won a scrum penalty and Russell converted it into three points to make it 6-3 at the break. The Boks had camped in the opposition’s half but did not have the points on the board to show for it and Scotland would have been pleased to be so close at halftime.

Two minutes into the second half, Libbok missed a difficult long-range attempt but it was softened when Pieter-Steph du Toit muscled over from close range after a series of forward assaults on the line.

It mattered more when Libbok missed a fairly straightforward conversion attempt although he made up for it when he pushed a perfectly weighted kick-pass to Kurt-Lee Arendse out wide for the right wing to gather and score.

Faf de Klerk took over the kicking duties and guided the conversion home for an 18-3 lead but he missed a penalty soon after to confirm that the Boks have a serious issue with goal-kicking.

The Boks’ next fixture is against Romania next Sunday.

Point-scorers

South Africa 18 ā€” Tries: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kurt-Lee Arendse. Penalties: Manie Libbok (2). Conversions: Faf de Klerk.

Scotland 3 ā€” Penalty: Finn Russell.

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