RWC23: Scotland v South Africa: Scotland player ratings

No lack of effort but Scotland needed to be accurate to really challenge the world champions

Jack Dempsey carried hard and often for Scotland versus South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jack Dempsey carried hard and often for Scotland versus South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -

15. Blair Kinghorn – 6

He recovered from a very shaky start, knocking on the South African kick-off and everything else that went into the air in the opening 10 minutes, to look one of Scotland’s more threatening backs. He cleared up a lot of loose ball in the first half, he looked effective when moved to the wing late in the game where he might have grabbed a consolation score for Scotland had Ali Price’s late grubber kick up the right flank been better directed. [Willemse 6]

RWC23: South Africa v Scotland report: Springboks power to victory

RWC23: South Africa v Scotland reaction: Gregor Townsend frustrated by lack of consistency

RWC23: George Ford kicks 14-man England to famous win over Argentina

14. Darcy Graham – 4

He kept the electric Cheslin Kolbe in his box but for Scotland to beat South Africa they needed to convert every opportunity that came their way. When Graham got the ball late in the first half wide on the left side of the field with Kinghorn and van der Merwe outside him in a 3-on-1, he had to make the pass. He didn’t. The little winger will own his howler but will probably be waking up with the sweats for the next week as a result of it. [Arendse 7]

13. Huw Jones – 5

Not a bad game as such but it is difficult to remember Jones getting his hands on the ball very often let alone doing anything clever with it? He did cut a super line in the first half but couldn’t quite hold onto Russell’s bullet of a pass. He knocked the ball on under no obvious pressure late in the game but that is what this Springbok’s defence does to you. [Kriel 4, very lucky to be on the field after the second minute]

12. Sione Tuipulotu – 6

Penalised for holding on early on although that was the fault of the clear-out team. He did make some dents in the Bokke line but not enough due, once again, to a lack of opportunity/ball. He was also run over by Pieter-Steph du Toit when the giant flanker scored in the second half but I am not sure the Scotland centre could have stopped him without the aid of an elephant gun. [De Allende 6]

11. Duhan van der Merwe – 4

Sat down on his backside early on by Siya Kolisi, the big winger never really got into this game. He popped up in midfield to good effect at least once but didn’t see nearly enough ball to impose himself. He failed to look after the ball in the early exchanges, he should have passed to Kinghorn at one stage and he was arguably caught out defending a little too narrow for Arendse’s try? [Kolbe 6]

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 60)


10. Finn Russell – 7

A very Finn Russell sort of performance with a little bit of something for everyone. He too saw an early clearance charged down and he conceded a couple of penalties. He also made numerous excellent clearances, his kick-pass to Duhan didn’t come off but his 50-22 did. Two tackles late in the game, on Kurt-Lee Arendse and Grant WIlliams, probably saved two tries. Didn’t get enough quality ball to influence events as he would have liked. [Libbock 8 if only for that no-look kick-pass]

9. Ben White – 6

A mixed bag from the little Scottish nine who saw an early kick charged down and quickly realised he had to sharpen up. After that much of his best stuff, like his half-back partner, was in defence which shows the way the game panned out. Replaced late in the game by Ali Price. [de Klerk 7]


1. Pierre Schoeman – 6

The sturdy prop did well and helped win a scum penalty late in the first half for Scotland’s only points but he, and the rest of the front five, faded badly in the second half when the Bokke bomb squad filled their boots. He spilled the ball when Scotland were building a little momentum late in the first half. [Kitshoff 7]

2. George Turner – 5

Scotland lost three line-outs when Turner was throwing. One was definitely overcooked because Richie Gray couldn’t get anywhere near it. The other two may not have been his fault but who on earth was calling throws to the back early doors when Turner’s weakness is his arrows? [Marx 8]

3. Zander Fagerson – 6

Similar to his front-row buddies, Fagerson had his struggles in the set piece but he stuck to the task and in Steven Kitshoff he was up against arguably the best scrummaging loose-head in world rugby. [Malherbe 6]

4. Richie Gray – 5

Worked hard all afternoon and played his part in the first-half defensive effort but never really managed to impose his physical presence on the game. He was up against it at the sidelines where the Springboks reigned supreme. Replaced in the second half by Scott Cummings. [Etzebeth 6, Snyman 8]

5. Grant Gilchrist – 6

The big fella had a solid game against some of the best around. His physicality helped Scotland defend against the Springbok maul and his long levers helped win at least one turnover by holding Jesse Kriel off the ground with the ball in his hands. [Mostert 7]

6. Jamie Ritchie – 5

He conceded an obvious and dumb penalty at an early line-out which only added to the pressure that Scotland were feeling in the opening quarter of this game. Thereafter, he failed to match the fearsome physicality of the opposition while making his tackles. [Kolisi 7]

7. Rory Darge – 6

The openside flanker got through a mountain of work and made any number of tackles but proved a little ineffective at the breakdown where the sheer power of the opposition blew him, and anyone else in blue, clean off the ball. [du Toit 8]

8. Jack Dempsey – 7

A decent showing from the hard-working Aussie who carried relentlessly and with occasional success. He did well under pressure from Faf de Klerk at the base of the scrum. He was clocked early on by Jesse Kriel who should have seen red for the offence but it was somehow missed by the match officials. Why didn’t the Scotland management demand an HIA for Dempsey, if only to highlight the illegal challenge? [Wiese 6]

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 60)

Replacements –

16. Dave Cherry – 5

Came on late and still Scotland’s lineout woes continued.

17. Jamie Bhatti – 5

Did nothing much wrong but the momentum was against him in the second half.

18. WP Nel – 5

At 37, the Edinburgh veteran is only there to hold up the world and instead he conceded a couple of scum penalties.

19. Scott Cummings – 5

He looked the part.

20. Matt Fagerson – 6

His usual workaholic self when he replaced Darge. He will surely get a chance to shine in the coming games.

21. Ali Price – 5

That grubber kick needed to stay in the field of play to give Kinghorn any chance but instead it bounced tamely into touch.

22. Cam Redpath – 5

He has all the skills but not so much physical presence. Still managed one smart offload in his short stint.

23. Ollie Smith – 5

Always worth watching, Smith remains a contender.

RWC23: South Africa v Scotland report: Springboks power to victory

About Iain Morrison 148 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.


  1. You can watch videos of South African schools rugby on YouTube. Crowds of several thousand turn up to watch, the big games are televised and the kids play like they’re trying to outdo each other for biggest hit or biggest carry.

    It’s really difficult to beat a country like that unless you’re also drawing your players from an intense goldfish bowl.

    Which is probably why NZ has been the only country to do it regularly.

  2. We believe any hype that goes around…when we should be modest about any improvements we make…it’s not why we lost this match but it doesnt help at all. The whole thing just feels like Japan again.

    We simply don’t know how to get the better of a rush defense. We have good players but we continue to play ‘our’ way when it rarely works against an aggressive organized rush defense. If we haven’t solved that by the Ireland match we’ll be packing our bags. If we don’t figure it out it’ll just be the same old mid table 6N also.

    SA are the top side of ’23…and are primed for this RWC. I’m not sure Ireland will fair that much better by the time they play…maybe they will but I wouldn’t bet on it. SA, Ireland and France look the teams to beat….the other side just looks a joke.

    • Player wise ….Smith looks a better all around FB than Kinghorn….Horne is a better rugby player than Price(justas an example recall Horne’s recent grubber vs Price’s poor attempt)….Luke Crosbie is perhaps a better option at 7 against the power back rows. Nel is done at this level…we simply have a dearth of THs. Redpath worth a shot at 12 …as Tui seems out of form.Turner is a garbage lineout thrower…and the communication at lineout seems all over the shop.

      Why didn’t we get Ritchie Gray (the Breakdown specialist who coached SA) in to coach breakdown and contact?….we were blown away by SA there…. and Ireland will do the same playing with us playing like that.

  3. Hmm. Not much we can do about the front 5 realistically (where the game was essentially lost) but I’d like to see changes ahead on the back row where Darge (talent though he is) and Ritchie were both pretty anonymous. I hope Horne is fit gain soon at Scrum Half too. In the centres, I’m a huge Tuipilotu fan but thought Redpath brought energy when he came on and would be worth a start.

  4. I am disappointed after the first half that we lost. We had to defend and little ball. And wasted so much of what we had.
    But I think the rating for most players a bit on the low side.
    We went to to toe with the current holders, with the biggest baddest pack around.
    And lost by 15 PTS. How many thought it would many many more? Be honest.
    I am still gutted we lost, annoyed at errors but they really fronted up. We will see how many others manage that against SA

  5. Thought Olly Smith and Redpath both brought something new off the bench and should be strongly considered for next time out.

    • Van der Merwe and Graham looked like 2nd rate club players against Arendse and Kolbe. Ireland will target the same channels and we will be as clueless to stop as we were at Murrayfield in the 6N. Both are great finishers with a bit of space, but like SA, Ireland will not give them any. What to do? I don’t have a clue, but as Einstein allegedly said ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

  6. The lineout and scrum were the killers. Yes we expected to lose the Scrum but not by that margin… The lineout? Why keep throwing to the back when you are under pressure, actually not a great deal of pressure…?? We were never on the front foot, Could even Usain Bolt have remained onside and so often got between Finn and the backs? Biggest issue is they continued to do the same thing we had no plan B. Worst of all you could have totally predicted how they would play, we should have been better prepared.

    • Scrum differences were marginal. We never saw a replay of the 2 penalties against Nel, but in the subsequent scrums, he looked comfortable. 2 dubious scrum penalties – 1 against Fagerson for going on one knee when Malherbe did a full swallow dive on the other side. TJ mic fell silent at that point. Penalty against Schoe for standing up when Nyakane came up first.
      Line was dire, even more so for a team that’s been in camp for months.

  7. I suspect I am the only person to say this (but not to think it), and I am certainly not advocating a ‘football-style’ situation with players falling to the ground after the slightest knock as if pole-axed. But if Dempsey had gone down when he felt the head knock (and it looked considerable) then I am sure there would have had to be a review of the tackle. Would that have made a difference to the end result – who knows?

  8. Why didn’t they demand an HIA for Dempsey?
    He might have failed it I guess.

    On average Saffas made nearly 6m/ carry, we made <3. It's a game of territory and pressure and that's why we lost.

    Saffas did also look more match hardened. It is a big advantage to come into the RWC off the back of the Championship whatever anyone says.

  9. Can’t argue with the scores, however,
    The back 3 have been practising taking high balls for weeks?, someone should’ve told Kinghorn. Perhaps start Smith at FB next time and bring Blair on when we are looking to open the game up.
    I thought Turner was in for his darts? If that’s not the case get the concussed Ashman home and McInally in. At least he is capable of mixing things up at the lineout.
    We knew the rush defence was coming but had no answer. Never saw evidence of Tuipulotu taking the heat off Finn. I thought Redpath had very quick hands/speed of thought when he came on, with a bit more time he may have proved the difference.
    Dempsey is a great player but perhaps would’ve been better to give M.Fag the first 40 , he is capable of a bigger defensive shift and then bring Dempsey on when you want to play.
    Unfortunately it’s going to be rinse and repeat against Ireland. They will copy that rush defence , their forwards despite being no bigger than ours will make more yards and what’s worse they have a fly half who will consistently take his kicks and get them playing in the right areas of the pitch.

  10. I would say I am not sure how the ratings work because one oke plays well and gets 6. Another doesn’t even make any sort of impact on the pitch and then gets 5? I have no idea how they rate but somehow it seems a little too skewed. Either change how you review their game or change the numbers. Or increase the total. So give them out of 20 to be a bit more accurate. But yes, they were heavy hitting initially and I was wondering what was going on with our scrum. Malherbe didn’t seem to be his dominant self. But other than that I am glad our boys came in the second half and managed two tries. Well done my Boks. Lovely way to start the World Cup and the week.

  11. Darge 6 is generous. Thought he went missing today as he has done in other big games. Agree with Rugby Pass’ 4.5 rating.

  12. it all starts with the main men stand off fullback hooker and scrum half the opening 15 minutes found them all wanting all making silly mistakes giving SA confidence and knocking the confidence out of scotland, fin russel is a super star and SA stopped him making moves of attack, so scotland did all the defending trying to keep SA out, it worked for the first half but scotland ran out of energy and commitment going through the motions of international rugby is not good enough, we are in a false position at number 5 in the world, we are thinking way above our station, I only hope we can play better against lesser opposition than the world champions, the scottish boys tried hard enough and with a bit of luck could could have scored darcy the little genius will be having nightmares to-night if only he had passed, I look forward to our next games when scotland have a chance of getting better results

    • what position do you believe we are if not 5th.? We are there because the teams below us England, Wales Australia and Argentina have all shown mediocre form over these past 2 years.Which of them would you put money on to beat us? We will on the other hand struggle to go higher because we are not as consistent as Ireland or South Afrika. We have went toe to toe with France but will never beat the all blacks.

      • Australia beat us last year without having to get out of third gear. Even with a clownshoes coach they are better than us.

    • If you look at the points making the rankings, it suggests a bit of a gap between 4th and 5th. I think that is probably fair. The shame of the draw is that we are in a pool with the two sides who have Scotland’s number. If we were in with the other two sides ranked higher than us – France and NZ – I would have fancied our chances a bit more. Which tells a bit of a story, because that would involve beating NZ for the very first time.

  13. I did not think VDM played well today and I was initially critical of his defensive positioning when I first saw the SA try but although he was as suggested ,narrow for the try – this was because he had been involved in a midfield breakdown and was still in the process of returning to his wing position after this and it was not his fault. To be fair it was probably as much Jamie Ritchie’s responsibility as anyone’s as he was the widest defender when the kick was actually made, had clearly not picked up the SA winger was sitting wide for the cross kick and should really have helped VDM by pulling wider himself rather than waiting for VDM to run back out to his position.

  14. Very fair score assessments. Few players played anywhere near their best. Would score Darge one higher but apart from that bang on.

    I agree about both wingers mistakes.


Comments are closed.