Rugby World Cup: South Africa easily handle Scotland to begin world title defence at Paris

South Africa have the defence of their title off to an impressive start, when a second-half surge allowed them to overpower a toothless Scotland 18-3 to move into a strong position in the World Cup's 'group of death'.

Two tries in three second-half minutes from flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse pulled the Springboks clear, and Scotland were unable to find a way back into the contest, barely threatening the South African tryline all game.

Scotland now face a difficult road to qualify from Pool B for the quarter-finals and will likely have to beat Ireland, when the teams meet in their final group game in Paris on October 7 to stand a chance.

Mbongeni Mbonambi celebrates the Springboks win with fans.
Mbongeni Mbonambi celebrates the Springboks win with fans. Photo credit: Getty Images

Scotland matched South Africa's power in the opening 40 minutes and trailed 6-3 at the break, still in the contest, without creating many scoring opportunities.

Once the Boks' powerful forwards came off the bench in the second period, there was another shift in momentum and they were able to comfortably keep the Scots at bay.

"It was tough in the first half," said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi. "Everything was close, we were a bit slow to get into our game and take our opportunities.

"Second half, we took our opportunities from the set-piece and I am proud of the way the boys did that."

The best chance of the first half fell to the northern hemisphere side, as wing Darcy Graham created a three-on-one opportunity, but held onto the ball, when he needed to release a teammate to canter over the 'Boks line.

South Africa lost lock Eben Etzebeth with a suspected shoulder injury after 26 minutes, replaced by RG Snyman, and that changed the dynamic of a scrum battle they had won to that point.

Scotland forced a penalty from the set-piece in their own 22 and then, shortly afterwards, another in range for Russell to secure three points and halve the deficit on the stroke of halftime.

South Africa came out with renewed intensity in the second period, smashing their opponents backwards at the scrum to earn a penalty that put them in Scotland's 22. From there, they moved the ball through phases, gaining a few metres at a time, before Du Toit crashed over from close range.

One try became two three minutes later, as Libbok spotted Arendse in acres of space on the right wing and his superb, no-look crosskick was perfect for the diminutive back to score in the corner.

It was poor defending and a sucker-punch for the Scots, who - in truth - were out of the contest after 50 minutes and were easily shutout by the 'Boks.

"I thought our defence was excellent today, we really took it to them physically," said Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie.

"Plenty of time to dust ourselves off, all the hard work we have put in has not gone away, it is one setback, but we have loads to play for."

South Africa play their second pool game against Romania in Bordeaux next Sunday, while Scotland have to wait two weeks, before they take on Tonga in Nice on September 24.

Meanwhile, Japan have had to withstand a ferocious physical challenge from debutants Chile in their bonus-point 42-12 Rugby World Cup Pool D clash at Toulouse, as coach Jamie Joseph says their opponents "tackled like demons" in the searing heat.

Japan scored six tries in what looks a comfortable win on the scoreboard, but was anything but that in reality for the 2019 World Cup quarter-finalists against a fired-up, emotional South American side, many of who were in tears at the anthems.

"Chile came with a really spirited performance, really hearty, tackled like demons, turned our ball over, really put us under pressure," said Joseph. "We had to deal with that without losing confidence."


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