I’m no rugby tactician and I don’t follow the game off the field much, so I must confess that I take things at face value.
At face value, what I saw last night was a South African team that spent most of the night defending against Scotland and taking some heavy tackles in the process.
It was even more disconcerting to hear the commentators saying at the beginning of the first half — while the field was looking like someone shook a snow globe filled with green and blue glitter — that this was so much of an improvement for the South Africans after the debacle against Ireland. I must have missed the Ireland match, but it sounded ominous: How bad was that if this was an improvement?
And then, all of a sudden, in a blitz of tries and conversions, we were up and looking like the team we all know the Boks can be. I sat up, the speed of biltong nibbling increased, and I edged the volume up. Exciting stuff. And then, 50 minutes of defence that really didn’t look like we were dictating the structure of the game at all.
Another thing that struck me was the number of brutal up-ending tackles on our centres. Bone-crunching stuff. And there was that daft Irish moment when someone decided it was wiser to cut inside and try to get past Schalk Burger instead of JP Pietersen. To me that was indicative that the Scots weren’t scared of Burger, and that scares me. Like I said, I’m no rugby expert, but these things worry me.
And then, to top it off, there seemed to be some weird vibe in the SuperSport half-time studio with Naas Botha acting like it was his first time talking about rugby. What was that all about?
At any rate, a 27-3 win is the desired result and Scotland are the kind of team that can play beyond their average game when their tails are up. By the end of the game I was feeling positive. We won convincingly on the score line and we defended really well. We avoided serious injury, we hurt them in the scrums and we adapted well to the free-flow of the Scottish game.
It was the kind of game that will help Jake White and Eddie Jones settle their substitution strategy — another one of Naas Botha’s inane points last night — and it will also give the team the confidence they need after the game against Ireland.