In a riveting encounter at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, the Springboks initiated their Rugby World Cup defence on a high note, overpowering Scotland with an 18-3 victory in the inaugural Pool B match this Sunday.
A Hard-Fought First Half
The South African team, which included 14 players from the squad that triumphed over England in the 2019 final, had to dig deep to carve out this victory. The first half saw them earning just two penalties courtesy of Manie Libbok, while Finn Russell managed to secure one for Scotland.
As the teams clashed, the audience witnessed a series of intense moments, including a powerful defence from Scotland that elicited praise from their coach, Gregor Townsend. Despite the commendable defence, Townsend acknowledged a second half marred by inaccuracies, stating,
We defended well in the first half, we then grew into the game and the set-piece. We felt we could kick on in the second half. They won the third quarter hands down and a lot of that was down to their good play and our inaccuracy.
Turning the Tide in the Second Half
The game’s momentum shifted dramatically early in the second half with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse scoring a pair of tries within a span of three minutes, steering the Springboks into a dominant position. Libbok, who played a pivotal role in Arendse’s try, expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance, noting,
I’m just stoked that the first step went the way it did. I’m grateful for my forwards to give me the platform. I saw the space out wide so I went there. I’m pleased it came off.
A Series of Unforgettable Moments
The match was not devoid of heart-stopping moments, with the crowd erupting into cheers of “Scotland! Scotland!” as a massed Scottish defence bundled Damian de Allende into touch during a pressing moment for the Boks. South African winger Cheslin Kolbe also showcased his prowess with a devastating hit on Sione Tuipulotu, a move that eventually led to a penalty.
As the game progressed, Darcy Graham missed what could have been Scotland’s best chance in the first half, opting to feint a pass instead of capitalising on a clear three-on-one opportunity.
Sealing the Victory
Despite a missed long-range penalty early in the second period, the Springboks maintained their pressure, with a smart offload from RG Snyman giving Arendse the space he needed. The subsequent plays saw Du Toit muscling his way through Scottish defences to score, followed by another remarkable try by Arendse, effectively sealing the victory for the Springboks.
This win marks South Africa’s first opening match victory at a World Cup since 2011, breaking a streak of initial defeats in 2015 and 2019. Moreover, it extends their winning streak over Scotland to eight matches, preserving their record of never losing to the Scots outside of Scotland.
As the Springboks continue their journey, aiming for a record fourth World Cup title, this victory stands as a testament to their skill and determination, setting a formidable precedent in the early stages of the tournament.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 10, 2023