South Africa 34 Scotland 16: Stand-off Duncan Weir hopes his stunning second-half burst against South Africa on Saturday will help seal his place in coach Vern Cotter’s plans as Scotland look to book their place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Weir’s lung-bursting 80-yard run in the 49th minute which led to Tommy Seymour’s try was the Scottish high point in a 34-16 defeat which leaves them needing to beat Samoa back in Newcastle next weekend.
The reality for Weir is that first-choice No 10 Finn Russell is likely to force his way back into the starting line-up provided he shrugs off the ankle injury which left him on crutches after the match against the United States.
But Weir said: “I can only grasp the opportunities the coaches put in front of me. I take great pride in playing for my country and it was great to get my hands on the ball and have a few good runs.
“The Springboks are one of the best sides in the world and we can take great encouragement from the way we put them under pressure for periods in the second half. We can grow from that as we look forward to Samoa next week.”
The Scots’ old failings returned at St James’ Park with another sluggish start as South Africa — looking a more efficient, powerful unit as they continued to erase the memory of their opening loss to Japan — stretched into a 20-3 half-time lead.
Schalk Burger piled over the line in the 13th minute and a clever try in the 38th minute from JP Pietersen put the Springboks firmly in control, with the Scots’ only first-half score coming from a Greig Laidlaw penalty.
Seymour’s superb 49th-minute effort, after Weir had burst over the halfway line, evaded two challenges, and off-loaded to Tim Visser, marked the highlight but did not hide Weir’s frustration at another poor opening spell.
“We need to start going out and imposing our game as quickly as we can and not waiting to see what the opposition is going to throw at us,” Weir said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow but we will review the game and make sure we come out of the traps next week.”
The Scottish Rugby Union confirmed yesterday that hooker Ross Ford and centre Matt Scott must complete return-to-play protocols after suffering concussions as a consequence of Saturday’s match.
Full-back Stuart Hogg was forced off in the 63rd minute with cramp but there are no immediate concerns on him.
Lock Jonny Gray (dead leg) and centre Richie Vernon (knee strain) will also be monitored.
South Africa’s re-emergence in the tournament and in particular their devastating power in the rolling mauls was exemplified by Tendai Mtawarira — ‘The Beast’ — who warned that his side are set to get even more physical.
Wins over Samoa and the Scots have lifted South Africa to the top of Group B with just their game against the US to go, and Mtawarira believes the hurt of their opening defeat to the Japanese has only served to spur them on.
Mtawarira said: “We know we let down our whole nation of 55m people but we regrouped and we stuck to our guns, we listened to our captain, and we went out there to play Springbok rugby.
“We have been through a lot of adversities over the past few years but we have always known that when we play to our strengths we can do well against anyone in the world.”
Scorers for South Africa:
Tries: Burger, Pietersen, Habana Cons: Pollard 2 Pens: Pollard 4 Drop: Pollard
J. du Plessis.
Scorers for Scotland:
Try: Seymour Con: Laidlaw Pens: Laidlaw 2, Weir Yellow card: Laidlaw.
Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (c); Tendai Mtawarira Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen
Lambie for Pietersen (70), Serfontein for de Allende (75), Pienaar for du Preez (80), Nyakane for Mtawarira (67), Strauss for B. du Plessis (57), Malherbe for J. du Plessis (50), du Toit for de Jager (76), Alberts for Burger (70). Sin Bin: J. du Plessis (34).
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Richie Vernon, Peter Horne, Tim Visser, Duncan Weir, Greig Laidlaw (c), Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, WP Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Josh Strauss, Blair Cowan, Dave Denton
Lamont for Hogg (63), Horne for Vernon (65), Hidalgo-Clyne for Laidlaw (70), Dickinson for Reid (51), Ford for Brown (61), Welsh for Nel (64), Swinson for J. Gray (69), Wilson for Strauss (55). Sin Bin: Laidlaw (53).
Nigel Owens (Wales)
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