STUART HOGG was in no mood for playing along with any hard luck narratives after his team’s defeat to South Africa earlier today, insisting that Scotland, and not the world champions, were the architects of their own downfall.
“I‘m bitterly disappointed with the result,” said the Scotland captain. “For the first 20 minutes we defended like our lives depended on it. We kept them out and went down the other end of the field and scored three points. That was huge for us.
“We felt we were in control at half time. We had the choice then to sit back and expect it to happen or go out to make it happen. At times we looked good, played in the right areas and were in control of the ball and defended really well. But we missed vital clear-outs and that was the thing that killed us.
“The boys are absolutely devastated with the result. The second half was far from where we need to be and where we want to be and that has cost us.
“You could say the Springboks would have won anyway but I’d probably disagree. We shot ourselves in the foot at times. We didn’t get to vital clear-outs and our set-piece didn’t function. We just didn’t control the game as we’d like to.
“Yes, we were put under pressure but at times we didn’t help ourselves.
“We allowed South Africa to get into their game. They wanted to slow it down and kick to the corner and get their set-piece going. We gave them an avenue into the game at times and that’s not what we’re about.
“There are large parts of the game that we felt were really good and others that we are frustrated about,” he continued. “But it’s done now and we need to move on. We have an opportunity to learn and grow individually and collectively. Next week we’ll get back on the horse and go again [against Japan].”
Hogg played down the two personal milestones he reached in this match, of becoming the male player who has started the most tier one international matches at full-back in the game’s history, and of matching Ian Smith and Tony Stanger‘s 24 tries for Scotland record.
“It’s not about that,” he shrugged. “It’s about winning Test matches. It’s about being in a position to keep the momentum going as a national side. That’s what we’re about. We talked in the changing room about this being a minor blip, a bump in the road.
“I think I might think back in a few hours when I’ve calmed down and settled down. My focus now is to make sure I recover well so that we are in a great place physically and mentally come Monday.
“We have an opportunity to learn and grow and be better. It’s not going to be pretty viewing at times when we look back but we will get excited about the next challenge.”
Next week’s opponents, Japan, coughed up 60 points in a heavy defeat to Ireland last weekend, but Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend insisted that he and his team won’t be reading too much into that.
“They came close to beating Australia [last month], and they beat us two years ago [at the World Cup], so we know what a difficult team Japan are,” he reasoned. “If you give them ball, they will cause you problems, so that will be a very tough game for us.
“And it will show the resilience of the group if we can bounce back after a painful defeat. We want to put what we’ve learned over the last three weeks into the best performance of this Autumn Nations Series – that’s all we’re working towards.”