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Defending champions South Africa beat Scotland

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Reigning champions South Africa (SA) got their 2023 Rugby World Cup defence off to a winning start, as two tries in three second-half minutes proved crucial in beating Scotland 18-3 in Marseille on Sunday.

After a competitive first half between the sides brought two Manie Libbok penalties and a 6-3 SA lead, scores from Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse early in the second half blew out the game and put the Springboks in command at Stade Velodrome.

Finn Russell struck a penalty for Scotland on the cusp of half time, but it was all they could fashion, having failed to capitalise on an enormous first half try chance to lead when wing Darcy Graham spurned the opportunity to pass to an unmarked Duhan van der Merwe.

Gregor Townsend and co may well feel aggrieved too, however, as Springbok centre Jesse Kriel avoided sanction and a potential red card, despite Scottish appeals, for an early head-on-head tackle on back-row Jack Dempsey, with referee Angus Gardner missing the incident and TMO Ben Whitehouse deciding not to intervene.

Scotland started nervously, with two errors inside the first minute, as full back Blair Kinghorn knocked on the kick-off and Russell was then charged down a metre from his own try-line by Franco Mostert, and very fortunate not to concede a try.

They should have fallen 3-0 behind on 10 minutes after a first lineout attack was botched and a second Kinghorn aerial knock-on gave way to a South Africa scrum penalty, only for Libbok to poorly miss wide.

Within a couple of minutes, Libbok was able to put the Boks on the board off the tee, however, when Russell was penalised for a deliberate knock-on. Before that, Kriel avoided a card for his tackle and Scotland were left to rue that moment when a Malcolm Marx jackal presented Libbok with a simple kick to double the lead on 25 minutes.

In response, Scotland finally got going in attack as wing Graham produced a wonderful step to glide past Du Toit, after which Arendse came in with a try-saving action to stop the ball finding a massive Scotland overload on the opposite side of the pitch.

(C.D)

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