Boks edge brave Scots
The Springboks were forced to overturn a half-time deficit to claim a hard-fought, 30-17 win over Scotland in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Scotland have never won on South African soil and with an understrength side, few expected the tourists to trouble the Boks on their first visit to Mbombela Stadium. But it turned out to be a tightly-contested affair and the hosts looked in trouble when they trailed by 11 points early in the second half.
Scotland deservedly led 10-6 at the end of a first half characterised by the visitors' willingness to have a go and the Springboks' conservative tactics and lack of imagination.
The hosts looked all at sea when the Scots failed to capitulate to their supposed physical superiority and the insistence on kicking whenever in their own half meant that the South African backline never saw the ball with any regularity.
There could be no excuses from the Springboks - they were outplayed in the first half and significant step up was required after the break.
There was an improvement after the break, especially at the set piece, but South Africa were never dominant as the Scots were happy to go toe-to-toe with the men in white.
It was only in the last quarter that South Africa finally got on top as a late try gave the scoreline a more appealing look for Bok fans.
Scotland had the better of the opening exchanges and stand-in skipper Greig Laidlaw opened the scoring in the seventh minute after Marcell Coetzee was penalised on the deck.
The hosts replied in unconvincing fashion but took the lead via two Morné Steyn penalties, both against flank Ryan Wilson.
But the first half would belong to the Scots, who scored the only try of the opening stanza on the 20-minute mark when centre Matt Scott ghosted over after a wing Tommy Seymour had unlocked the South African defence.
Laidlaw added the extras to put the visitors four points ahead, a lead which they held until the interval as the Springboks' lack of composure ensured a handful of opportunities went unconverted.
And the pattern continued after the break as Scotland struck within three minutes of the restart as wing Alex Dunbar touched down in the corner.
Laidlaw's conversion took the score to 17-6 and the Boks looked shell-shocked.
Steyn missed a penalty but the Bok pack wouldn't be denied as French referee Romain Poite raised his arm for a penalty try after Scotland collapsed a maul just short of their line.
That seemed to sparked new life into the home team, who were handed a golden opportunity to turn the tables when Scotland lock Jim Hamilton was very harshly shown a yellow card on the recommendation of South African TMO Gerrie Coetzee for an open-handed push on Eben Etzebeth.
The Boks made their extra man count and centre JJ Engelbrecht's try from a Willie le Roux pass put them back in front. Steyn slotted the conversion from out wide to leave SA 20-17 head just before the hour mark.
South Africa had the lion's share of possession and territory in the final quarter and replacement fly-half Pat Lambie could extend the gap after Alasdair Strokosch was penalised at a ruck with six minutes left on the clock.
Replacement centre Jan Serfontein sealed the win in the final minute as he muscled his way over after an attacking line-out.
Man of the match: The official award went to Siya Kolisi, who was South Africa's top ball carrier but we'll go for Alasdair Strokosch, who made a whopping 20 tackles for Scotland and made life miserable for the Bok loose forwards at the breakdown.
Moment of the match: The game really turned on Jim Hamilton's yellow card as the Boks took the lead shortly afterwards, marking a clear shift in momentum.
Tries: Scott, Dunbar
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Yellow card: Hamilton
For South Africa:
Tries: Penalty try, Engelbrecht, Serfontein
Cons: Steyn 2, Lambie
Pens: Steyn 2, Lambie
Scotland: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stevie Lawrie, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Duncan Taylor.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
<Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Nigel Hennessy (Wales)
Television match official:Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)