Scotland v South Africa: Scotland player ratings

A tough day at the office for the hosts who couldn't Iive with the world champions' awesome physicality

It was a tough day at the office for Matt Fagerson and his Scotland team-mates against South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -
It was a tough day at the office for Matt Fagerson and his Scotland team-mates against South Africa. Image: © Craig Watson -

15. Stuart Hogg – 8

Missed one high ball early on and another with 20 minus to go, but generally rock solid in defence and took his two tries superbly. A couple of siege gun clearance kicks, and struck the right balance between risk and reward. The number of penalties conceded were an issues but the captain managed the referee well.

Scotland v South Africa: Boks bully brittle hosts

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14. Rufus McLean – 6

Solid enough in defence apart from being caught too tight on Makazole Mapimpi’s first try. Not many chances to show what he can do with the ball in hand, and you wonder whether Darcy Graham might have found a way to ask the Springboks a few more questions.

13. Chris Harris – 6

Struggled against Springbok line speed – but read the play well in lead up to Stuart Hogg’s first try. Needless penalty under a high ball at 18-10 was a swing point in game.

12. Matt Scott – 6

A tough afternoon in which he was constantly on back foot. Caught short by Damian de Allende in lead up to Mapimpi’s second try. First appearance in four years and will have hoped to make a bigger impact.

11. Duhan van der Merwe – 9

World class. Perhaps his best game in a Scotland jersey. Brilliant break-out from own line after 12 minutes when Scotland were very much under the cosh and a big statement just when it was needed. Ran strongly and handled well in build-up to Stuart Hogg’s first try. Solid in defence, tackled hard, no sign of perceived weakness under high ball.


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10. Finn Russell – 7

A bad start dropping his first ball, but a glimpse of what might have been if he had been fully fit on the Lions tour. Some imaginative and powerful kicking, combining length and subtlety, though less successful when going for goal. Brave in the face of enormous physical challenge, his quick hands could not always avert the onslaught, and he got scant protection from the referee.

9. Ali Price – 7

A difficult afternoon under intense pressure at the breakdown, but coped well. Effective link, his service was fine, and some excellent box kicking.


1. Pierre Schoeman – 7

Knew what to expect at scrum time  and got it – but hung in there manfully. Competitive in the ‘semi-rough’ and some nice touches in open play.

2. Stuart McInally – 6

Hard going in the scrum, but he gave it his best shot. Active about the pitch and darts were fine – until his last throw.

3. Zander Fagerson – 6

Penalty at first scrum foreshadowed a torrid afternoon. Surprising (and perhaps significant) that he was not replaced until 65th minute – by which time he was dead on his feet.

4. Sam Skinner – 7

A big shift in which he put himself about the park with purpose. A huge steal of Springbok line-out in eighth minute kick-started the game for Scotland.

5. Grant Gilchrist – 6

Struggled with the physicality and did not look secure on restarts, but stuck with it. Some good takes in first half, but line-out died on him in the last quarter.

6. Nick Haining – 6

Brought in to beef up the home pack, but struggled to impose himself. Competed determinedly, but it was always a big ask.

7. Jamie Ritchie – 6

A huge effort, camped right on the edge of legality, and didn’t get it right as often as Scotland needed. Could hardly have worked harder  in what was, in truth, always a losing cause.

8. Matt Fagerson – 7

Fought gamely against irresistible force, was a leading carrier and tackler for the hosts, but was eventually swamped.


16. Ewan Ashman – 5

Came on for a pressure throw on 61 minutes and South Africa snaffled it. The second cap was always going to struggle to measure up to last weekend’s dream debut.

17. Jamie Bhatti – 5

Scotland needed some oomph off the bench, such as the ‘bomb squad’ give South Africa, but there wasn’t much forthcoming.

18. Oli Kebble – 5

As above.

19. Jamie Hodgson – 6

Excellent turnover immediately after taking the field on 72 minutes.

20. Hamish Watson – 5

The roar from the Murrayfield crowd when he came on with half an hour to go highlights just how big a player he is for the team, but couldn’t inspire anything here.

21. George Horne – 5

No real chance to make an impact during his nine minutes on the park.

22. Adam Hastings – 5

Came on at 10 for the final 10 minutes, with Russell moving to 12, but not much happening and ended up running up a few dead-end alleys.

23. Blair Kinghorn – 5

A fine kick-chase just after Hogg’s second try put South Africa under serious pressure and won a big penalty, but the line-out was lost and Scotland couldn’t keep their foot on the gas. Dropped a high ball and threw a wild pass which ultimately led to South Africa’s final three points from a scrum-penalty directly in front of the posts.

Scotland v South Africa: Boks bully brittle hosts

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


    • Far less childish than that string of naughty words that originally appeared along with Blair Kinghorn’s rating.

  1. Agree with Peter that we need a No 8 since Matt Fagerson is a flanker. A No 8 who is an effective scrummager. Our scum suffered as a result. McLean’s hesitation led to the first SA try – his lack of experience showed, he will learn from that. Second best today, too many mistakes but 2 good tries.

  2. I think we learned that if our kicker isn’t hitting the target on the day, we don’t have our best 2nd row available and have made some unsuccessful ‘T. Tombola’ rotations in vital positions, then we’re not going to beat the world champions. No huge surprises there! I still think that Gregor treated this as almost a shot to nothing.

    Going forward; do we need to give Matt Scott another go at centre (he’s been a long time out of the international scene and didn’t make much of an impact, but has been playing well for Leicester), or do we look at the many other options out there – Redpath coming back, Tuipulotu bang in form at Warriors, not to mention the class of both Jones and Hutchison? We got totally done in the scrum and that’s no surprise, but the line-out in the second half was what really killed us. Obviously Ashman has great potential but it was a very big ask yesterday to back up his almost miraculous first cap performance. I felt it was just too early for Rufus McLean too, and I hope his confidence isn’t damaged by yesterday’s match. But we’re not short of wingers so there’s not desperate urgency. Finally I felt for Finn yesterday, it’s an unarguably issue that he doesn’t kick for Racing, but he’s usually very accurate (his kicking for the Lions in the Summer was superb – when he played) and he just had an off day.

    Going to be really interesting to see who gets the nod for Japan – and this time I do hope that the Tombola gets spinning a bit! 🙂

  3. I wonder if it might be worth looking at Steyn for the 13 jersey. He’s played centre for Glasgow, with McDowall, and might offer more of an attacking threat than Harris. We’re not struggling for wingers at the moment and Harris’ main strength seems to be in defence. Maybe Zander Fagerson could be rested for the next match.

  4. As alluded too in this blog, a destructive 8 is required, someone like Josh Strauss (Bradbury seems to have all the tools but……). I like Haining but he’s had precious little rugby this season.
    Finn Russell had a curates egg of a game yesterday, some wonderful some bang average, but that’s what he does, I sort of (in a scottish way) like it…..
    Harris still IMO is not the 13 we need.

  5. Lost 3 of our own line outs at critical stage In match ,
    Fin missed 3 kicks which would have given us
    momentum and our passing under pressure in
    second half let us down.
    We always run the risk of being bullied by a big ,
    physical pack so getting all of the above right
    Is critical

  6. I agree with Will about the marking. We played well for much of that game and a few key kicks and line outs could have made a big difference. As a team we were probably 6.5/10, which is enough to give the World champions a half-time scare but not enough to beat them. The individual marking reflects that.

    On the scrum, ZF is taking a lot of stick but wasn’t it the LH side that was going backwards more readily? (Genuine question for the Front Row union).

    One positive – Matt Fagerson is now looking much steadier under the high ball. He’s always been willing to field them but now showing some real reliability. Good on him.

    • Not for me tbh. Schoeman was pretty solid on his side’s. Fagerson is generally poor in terms of his feet which is why he goes to ground so often and plenty of referees have picked up on that. In fairness to him the SRU have for the last few years prioritised props who hit the numbers in the gym over actual scrummaging ability. Jon Welsh was jettisoned far too early. Murray McCallum is an excellent scrummager on both sides but struggles to get game time. Teams that can’t manage set piece won’t win much in the long term

    • Looked like the right hand side was going backwards fast, right off the ground at times – not quite sure how legal the SA technique was, but if the ref doesn’t ‘see’ it that way then we just have to adapt.
      Difficulty is that all players have things they do better – tighthead scrumming is a bit of an Achilles heel at the moment with ZF not the best scrummager, having to stay on as our back up was probably even less likely to succeed – being and experimenting loose head. (You saw what happened to Australia having to play two loose heads due to injury.) We probably only have one tight-head who may have held up, but not in the squad selected. That choice would be – lose a bit of mobility around the park v give away less easy territory and points, you pays your money you take your chance – for this game it didn’t go well.

  7. Understand what you’re saying there Ross and in general agree it sounds a little too generous. But one problem I have with the whole player rating system at the end of games is that it doesn’t seem to take the quality of the opposition into account – on any site, not just here. If these players had shown the same drive and commitment they did yesterday against Tonga – and no disrespect at all to Tonga here – they’d have won convincingly and all be receiving scores of 8s and 9s I’d wager. I find it hard to take player ratings seriously on any platform, therefore.

    Yet here I am, reading and commenting. Ah well!

    • Fair point Will and yes the player rating is just a bit of fun and gives us even more things to comment and disagree about.

  8. I think I must have been watching a different game from the “marker”. Russell was under huge pressure but he is “one of the best world no.10s”. In mitigation ,scrum always under pressure so ball provision was generally poor but I got a slight feeling of men against boys today. However, they tried to do their best with some heroic efforts from some.

  9. Vs Japan
    Hogg, Steyn, Jones, Johnson, VDM, Russell, Price.
    Haining, Ritchie Crosbie, Sykes, Gilchrist, Kebble, Turner, Schoeman
    Reps – Hastings, Graham, Horne, Bradbury, Hodgson, Z.Fagerson, Richardson, Bhatti

    • Would like our bes team selects so we can reverse the World Cup result. Agree with your suggested back line but question some of th forward selections. Surprised by no Watson, Ashman or Skinner. Furthermore I think Bradbury is injured. Hope Richardson gets some game time.

    • GT probably has more room for experimentation with Japan still seeming a step below their World Cup form – only managed 38-25 win against Portugal today.So he may rest several players who have played a lot of weeks on the trot.
      We may see Gilchrist, Schoeman, Fagerson, rested.
      Hastings should be worth a spin with Kinghorn or Thomson as cover and with Maclean given another chance with Steyn.
      There is scope to try a few combinations in this one.

  10. We need a destructive number 8, if Matt fagerson is anything he’s a flanker not an 8. We also need to accept that if we play Harris then we need a creative centre with a break as the other centre, Hutchinson, redpath (when fit). Also why can’t we find a way to recover a misfiring lineout mid game. More then the scrum I thought the lineout killed us.

  11. We need a destructive number 8, if Matt fagerson is anything he’s a flanker not an 8. We also need to accept that if we play Harris then we need a creative centre with a break as the other centre, Hutchinson, redpath (when fit). Also why can’t we find a way to recover a misfiring lineout mid game. More then the scrum I thought the lineout killed us.

    • Don’t disagree re M Fagerson, as the best Warriors back row right now would be Fagerson at 6, Darge at 7, and Dempsey at 8…. But needs must as there aren’t many other options and he is still a quality player. Muncaster may be the coming man, but not seen him play, and may not be ready for RWC….

  12. I assume these scores on a scale of 1-15 as there were quite a few who barely deserve half marks. If they are out of 10 then David you are a very generous marker and I only wished you had marked my exams at school.

    If we are on the 1-10 scale then Rufus, Finn and ZF as a minimum were no better than a 5


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