South Africa’s Springboks successfully defended their title by defeating Scotland 18-3 during the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Marseille on Sunday.
In the first match of what fans have dubbed the “group of death,” South Africa took the lead after holding on for half an hour, marking a strong start for a team that hadn’t won its World Cup opener since 2011, following defeats by Japan in 2015 and New Zealand four years ago.
This victory was crucial for the three-time world champions, aligning with their aspirations in what they considered the most significant match of the tournament.
Wearing a shirt of questionable aesthetics, they were only troubled for half-time by the Scots, who stuck together and defended courageously.
“We were a little slow to get going, with an intensity below our standards,” confirmed South Africa’s emblematic captain Siya Kolisi afterwards, “but we were able to seize our opportunities in the second half thanks to an effective conquest.
Fly-half Manie Libbok put his side ahead with two penalties, but his limitations in front of the posts – a 2 in 5 success rates before being seconded by Faf de Klerk – could be the Achilles’ heel for the holders, who are without the injured Handré Pollard in this area.
After being subjected to their opponents’ busy footwork and losing precious ammunition in touch, the XV du Chardon began to get bolder.
While only a tussle between Ben White and Damian de Allende had caused the Stade Vélodrome, which had been less noisy than the previous day for England-Argentina, to roar to life, they even had the best chance of the first period.
But winger Darcy Graham, back from injury, forgot about his markers after the ball had gone in following a fine move (30th).
South Africa is set to face Romania, the weakest team in Group B, in Bordeaux next Sunday, following Romania’s 82-8 loss to Ireland on Saturday.
As they contend to retain their title, the Springboks have the potential to make South Africa the nation with the most world rugby titles.
Finn Russell’s team-mates will regret not having taken their chances, as the Boks were so dominant in the second half.
Ultra-dominant in the scrum, they killed the suspense in three minutes with two actions that sum up the extent of their qualities, between power and creativity.
First, third-row Pieter-Steph du Toit, the world’s best player in 2019, flattened the ball hard (47th). Then Libbok, much more interesting in the running game, distilled a blind pass to Kurt-Lee Arendse on the right wing (50th).
“I saw the space out wide, I took a chance, and I’m glad it worked,” said the South African fly-half, who was named man of the match.
Jacques Nienaber’s side, who had 14 players on their team sheet who had played in the victorious 2019 final against England (32-12), then just had to manage their lead.
After inflicting the biggest defeat in their history on New Zealand (35-7) to round off their preparations, they confirmed, with the serenity of their experience, that they were legitimate candidates to succeed themselves.
The only fly in the ointment in Marseille was the 26th-minute exit of one of their battle leaders, former Toulon second row Eben Etzebeth, who suffered a shoulder injury, according to his coach, who did not specify the severity of the injury.
Scotland will have two weeks to rest their sore shoulders before their next match, on 24 September in Nice, against an equally tough but more affordable opponent: Tonga.
Source : AFRICANEWS