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Pollard stars as South Africa down Scotland at Murrayfield

Pollard scored 18 points to lead the Springboks to victory © AFP / Andy BUCHANAN

EDINBURGH, United Kingdom, Nov 17 Handre Pollard plundered 18 points to help South Africa follow up their dramatic late win against France by becoming only the second visiting team in two years to win in Scotland with a 26-20 victory on Saturday.

On the day he collected his 38th cap to pass Butch James as South Africa’s second most capped outside-half, Pollard ran in a first-half try and nailed two conversions and three penalties as Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks followed New Zealand’s Murrayfield success of 12 months ago as only the second away team in 12 matches to triumph on Scottish soil.

“There’s a long way to go and a lot of lessons to learn but it’s nice to get a couple of wins on the road,” Pollard told the BBC.

“Rassie is bringing back the real culture of the Springboks. We are playing with heart and we just want to make the people proud back home.”

After two second-half penalty misses by the otherwise outstanding Blue Bulls pivot, however, it needed a 72nd-minute penalty by replacement Elton Jantjies to settle the match, stretching South Africa’s advantage to six points.

“It’s quite frustrating,” admitted home skipper Greig Laidlaw. “We couldn’t really generate the speed of ball in the second half, but you have to credit South Africa and the way they defended.”

A break by Pollard paved the way for the opening try, the fly-half bursting over the halfway line before his provincial half-back colleague Embrose Papier added his own cutting edge to an attack that culminated in right wing Sbu Nkosi feeding centre Jesse Kriel for a try to the left of the posts.

Pollard added the extras and it might have been worse for the Scots as they struggled to contain South Africa’s power and pace in the opening stages, but they struck back after 18 minutes.

Former Stormers player Huw Jones combined superbly with winger Sean Maitland before feeding his Glasgow centre partner Pete Horne for a try that Scotland’s scrum-half Laidlaw converted to tie the scores at 7-7.

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Not that Scotland were level for long. Two minutes later, full-back Willie le Roux shipped the ball wide for Pollard to breach the home defence for his side’s second try.

The Springbok number 10 added the conversion and followed up with a 24th-minute penalty, stretching the lead to 17-7. Again, though, Scotland clawed their way back.

– Scotland fight back –

Laidlaw landed a 26th-minute penalty. Then it took a last-ditch hack into touch by Le Roux to prevent Scotland’s rampaging fullback Stuart Hogg from finishing a 60m break up the left wing.

From the line-out, Watson caught the Springboks napping, darting to the front to collect Stuart McInally’s throw before crossing the whitewash.

Laidlaw’s conversion made it 17-17, though a 38th-minute penalty by Pollard edged South Africa 20-17 in front at the interval.

Seven minutes into the second half it was level again, Laidlaw landing his second penalty after Le Roux had been penalised and contentiously yellow-carded for an attempted interception that referee Romain Poite gave as a deliberate knock-on after conferring with TMO Ben Skeen.

Not that South Africa suffered for their numerical disadvantage, with Pollard’s third penalty giving them a 23-20 lead after 49 minutes.

There might have been a six-point gain but Pollard struck the post with a penalty, his first miss in six attempts with the boot.

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Scotland could have levelled on the hour mark but spurned an eminently kickable penalty opportunity for a catch and drive that came to nought.

After Jantjies’ penalty, though, South Africa had their sixth successive win over the Scots.

“Today was very tough, all credit to Scotland,” said Springboks captain Siya Kolisi. “You can see with their record… We knew how big of a challenge it was.”

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