Scotland suffered a demoralising start to their World Cup campaign as world champions South Africa squeezed the life out of them in Marseille. The Boks kicked off their defence of the Webb Ellis Cup with an 18-3 victory on Sunday evening after two tries from Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse in the third quarter took the game away from the Scots following a tightly-contested first half.
The defeat leaves Gregor Townsend's side with no margin for error in their remaining three matches against Tonga, Romania and Ireland if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals. The two sides went into the tournament in confident mood following encouraging summer campaigns which left the Boks ranked second and the Scots fifth in the world, but with Ireland - the top-ranked team - also in Pool B, the pressure was on both nations to start with a victory.
Read the game back below with our dedicated match blog as the Rugby World Cup continues in Marseille!
South Africa vs Scotland latest updates
Kick-off time: 4.45pm BST, Stade Velodrome
How to watch: ITV and ITVX
Score prediction: Holders start with a win
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That’s all from me, but we have Marc Mayo manning our Wales vs Fiji blog - which you can find here.
Man of the match Libbok speaks
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“I just want to thank my forwards for giving me the platform. I saw the space and knew what I wanted to do.
“I’m so honoured to be able to represent my country. I’ll take confidence from this and move on.”
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Read our match report here.
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81min: That’s your lot! Springboks just had too much in the middle.
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77min: Cheers of hope from the crowd as Price kicking a grubber down the line which Kinghorn chases but watches it bounce out.
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75min: South Africa have their eye in again and look certain to wrap up try no3 as Vermeulen sends it wide to Kolbe but is dragged some 10m from the line.
Scotland survive and Kolbe knows he probably should have looked for a team-mate.
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72min: Finally a lineout which works for Scotland as Van der Merwe is sent sprinting, until Arendse has other ideas and Du Toit gets the turn over.
Eventually the ball is spilled and Scotland get a scrum.
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71min: Into the final 10 minutes as Scotland need something big from here. Nothing doing so far.
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68min: Libbok is off for Le Roux, which will see Willemse go to fly-half.
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65min: Scotland just can’t get going as they concede another scrum penalty.
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62min: Scotland think they’ve scored but the referee has other ideas.
Agony as they didn’t take the lineout from the right spot so it must be retaken... and this time South Africa eventually win a penalty, rather than concede a try.
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61min: Gilchrist and Wiese are off for Cummings and Vermuelen.
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58min: Scotland introduce their own new front row but cannot get the better of the Bomb Squad as they give away another penalty in the scrum.
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55min: Scotland are shellshocked, so it’s the perfect opportunity for South Africa to bring on the Bomb Squad and a new front row.
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52min: De Klerk is on kicking duties and he converts.
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50min: London buses etc etc. Libbock with a stunning kick to release Arendse on the right, and he simply runs in a second try.
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47min: It’s been coming since half-time! Power finally prevails for the Springboks as Du Toit gets over.
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42min: Much better in the scrum by South Africa as Scotland are finally second-best, winning a penalty.
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41min: Back underway!
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I think South Africa came into the game expecting to win the physical battle. Not so.
Scotland are firmly in this. Second half to come.
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41min: Russell clears the posts to finish the half and Scotland are on the board!
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39min: Scotland get the better of the scrum and win the penalty. Halfway line, Russell is going for it.
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38min: It’s worked wide but there’s that South Africa defence again. White and then Schoeman try to breach it, but Marx has other ideas and it’s a knock on. South Africa scrum.
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36min: More reprieve for Scotland as another scrum collapses. Lineout time, near the halfway line.
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34min: Huge cheers as Scotland haul down South Africa’s maul. A scrum it it, which Dempsey collects and punts deep into the opposition half, but De Klerk was so close to the a block.
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32min: Scotland needed that but didn’t get it. They look exhausted.
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30min: Scotland had to score! Their best move of the game as they finally open up the Springboks with a brilliant lineout, feeding Graham and it’s three on one, but the winger feints once and then decides not to pass... allowing Libbok to bring him down/
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27min: Russell looks in pain after colliding with Arendse in a save job after Scotland loose possession. That’ll be a penalty to South Africa after a TMO review.
Slightly wreckless, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a penalty. It’s a legitimate challenge for the ball!
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26min: Etzebeth is off - carrying a limp? - and replaced by Snyman.
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25min: Libbock straight down the middle. South Africa lead 6-0.
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24min: South Africa penalty as Tuipulotu gets hands on the ball. Unnecessary.
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22min: They get a warning, no yellows from the ref.
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22min: Oh, it’s suddenly all kicking off as White and De Allende go to ground and will not let go. Players rush in and we have a scrap on our hands.
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21min: Blood replacement as Marx is replaced by Mbonambi.
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20min: Drinks break.
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19min: Another lineout, another lineout lost by Scotland. They are putting pressure on themselves, going for the toughest option and territory quickly lost.
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17min: More boos from this Scotland-heavy crowd as Mostert goes in late on Russell, but the latter is quickly onto his feet to charge at the Springboks.
Some yardage gained, finally.
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16min: De Klerk twice clears into Scotland’s 22. South Africa continue to smother the Scots, who can’t get any headway at the moment.
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13min: It’s good from Libbock. South Africa are on the board.
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12min: Boos around the stadium as Russell gets penalised for a deliberate knock on. He’s not convinced, but that doesn’t better. Libbok with another chance.
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11min: South Africa win the penalty after the scrum collapses, so a first sight of the posts of the game... which Libbok misses! That looked like a gimmie, but I guess not.
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9min: That was all wrong by Scotland as they miss the lineout and Wiese duly ran onto it at the second attempt. Libbok with another ping into the air, which Kinghorn knocks on for the scrum.
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7min: Kitshoff is offside so it’s a penalty to Scotland.
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6min: Two scrums in quick succession, the first collapses but the second is good as Scotland fly across from left to right but the South African defence meets him stride for stride.
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4min: South Africa are smothering Scotland in the opening stages, going high with the ball.
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3min: Libbok again goes for a speculative punt from right to left but gets it all wrong and Scotland pick it up between the posts.
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1min: A knock on from Scotland straight away, Libbok looks to the wing but it’s out.
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1min: Here we go! South Africa punt it to Scotland to get underway.
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Here come the teams! South Africa players signing as they come out, lead by Faf de Klerk.
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The South Africa kit is quite something, an aqua design similar to Olympique Marseille’s kit - smart.
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Final preparations for both teams as they each do a huddle on the pitch. Jamie Ritchie is absolutely bellowing a rallying cry at his team-mates.
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Just under 15 minutes until kick-off. Getting a bit nervy inside the stadium.
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Rugby World Cup chiefs have apologised to fans who missed the start of England’s win over Argentina in Marseille due to problems entering the Stade Velodrome, the same stadium for today’s game between South Africa and Scotland.
Scores of supporters were caught in a crush at the entrance, with many missing up to 20 minutes of the match. The 2023 tournament organising committee have admitted to mistakes with stewarding and pledged to resolve the issues without delay.
“Fans are the heartbeat of the tournament and we would like to apologise to fans impacted by yesterday’s access challenges,” read a Rugby World Cup 2023 statement.
“We are working hard to enhance the experience for all visiting Marseille for Rugby World Cup 2023.”
‘The past counts for nothing'
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South Africa have a good historical record against Scotland and have won each of the last seven meetings between the teams.
The Scots' last victory over the Boks was at Murrayfield in autumn 2010, but Stick insists that is irrelevant in relation to this weekend's box-office showdown in Marseille.
"What happened between us and Scotland in the past doesn't count anymore," assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said. "If we are not at our best, it could be a long day at the office. We must pitch up mentally and physically if we want to win the game.
"As any other team in the competition, we want a positive start to the World Cup. A win would put us in a good space. So, we'll go out there and give everything to achieve that. The key for us is to keep improving and to build momentum."
Springboks fired Scot warning
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South Africa have been warned they must be at their best to contain "one of the best attacking teams" in the world when they open their defence of the World Cup against Scotland.
"Scotland are in a good space and they are playing with confidence," assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said. "They also have Finn Russell at number 10, who is probably one of the best playmakers (around).
"Looking at our preparation though, we've played against the All Blacks twice this year in the build-up to the World Cup which was good for us.
"Scotland tend to spread the ball a lot - much like New Zealand - and they are certainly one of the best attacking teams currently, so it will be important for us to enforce our game plan on them."
Can Scots handle the heat?
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With France sizzling amid a late-summer heatwave, both sides have had to contend with scorching temperatures throughout their first week at their respective bases on the Cote d'Azur, with the Scots in Nice and the Springboks along the sunkissed coast at Toulon.
The two teams will now come together in the melting pot of Marseille, where it is expected to be in the mid-20s come kick-off at 5.45pm local time.
Scotland will hope the two previous stints they spent in Nice earlier this summer will stand them in good stead, although coach John Dalziel said earlier this week that it feels hotter now, in early September, than it did when they were here previously in June and August.
A French journalist in the media room in Marseille commented on Friday that "it is too hot to play rugby", although the implementation of water breaks is sure to be welcomed by all involved.
The Scots' fitness - something they have prided themselves on this summer - is sure to be tested to the limit.
Style war: power vs panache
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Along with France and New Zealand, Scotland have become one of the most swashbuckling attacking teams on the planet, while South Africa are the most powerful.
The brutish Springboks will attempt to bulldoze their opponents out of their rhythm, while the Scots - with the on-form Finn Russell pulling the strings at stand-off - are intent on outrunning and outplaying the formidable world champions. It promises to be an intriguing clash of styles.
Scots must defy history and break new ground
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Scotland have never previously defeated a tier-one nation at a Rugby World Cup. In addition, they have lost each of their last seven meetings with South Africa.
It is 13 years since the Scots last beat the Springboks as Dan Parks kicked every point for Andy Robinson's team in a 21-17 victory in an autumn Test at Murrayfield in November 2010. The last clash between these two nations was almost two years ago, when South Africa won 30-15 in Edinburgh.
The Scots have beaten the Springboks only five times in 28 attempts over more than a century, but Gregor Townsend's side have ended long winless streaks in recent years, most notably away to France and England.
Both teams in buoyant mood
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The two sides kick off the World Cup with every right to be optimistic about their chances.
South Africa have climbed from fourth to second in the world rankings in the weeks leading up to the tournament on the back of four consecutive wins. Their emphatic destructions of Wales and New Zealand last month were particularly impressive, ensuring they begin their defence of the Webb Ellis Cup as one of the favourites.
Scotland go into the tournament with words of lofty praise from John Jeffrey ringing in their ears after the 1990 Grand Slam hero branded them the best Scottish team ever at their World Cup welcome ceremony in Nice on Monday.
The Scots are ranked fifth in the world and have arrived in France with a genuine belief that they can beat any team in the world. One of these sides is set to have their bubble burst on weekend one.
Box-office starter to top-heavy group
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After the opening win for France over New Zealand, the Scots' showdown with the Springboks is the most eye-catching of the first round of pool fixtures. Today's match in Marseille is for higher stakes than the opening game in Paris given the strength of Pool B and the reduced margin for error.
With three of the current top five in the world in the same group, each of the head-to-heads between those three teams are sure to be crucial in deciding who qualifies, assuming they all make light work of both Tonga and Romania. Victory for either team at Stade Velodrome will stand them in good stead to progress from this heavyweight section.
Fearless Scotland embracing daunting Springboks opener
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Scotland assistant coach Peter Horne says they fear no one ahead of their Rugby World Cup opener against South Africa.
Reigning champions Springboks are one of the favourites to go all the way in France and they warmed up for the World Cup by beating New Zealand 35-7 at Twickenham last month. Horne insists his players are relishing the challenge.
“They’re obviously a very physical side,” he said. “And having put nearly 50 points on New Zealand in their last game, they’re going to be coming in full of confidence.
“It’s not even so much about matching that, it’s about taking it to them as well, really showing them we’re here and we’re not afraid of that challenge.
Why are Scotland in such a tough group?
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The World Cup draw has faced controversy after being held back in December 2020, with seedings decided on the world rankings at the beginning of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At that time, South Africa, fresh from winning the World Cup, stopped the standings, New Zealand were second, England third and reigning Grand Slam champions Wales were fourth.
Almost three years on, the top-ranked teams in the world now include Ireland and France as England slip to eighth in the world and Wales face dropping out of the top 10.
This has created a lopsided draw and a ‘pool of death’ including, you guessed it, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland. We are guaranteed one big casulty, and Scotland are trying to make sure it isn’t them.
Head to head
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Scotland have not beaten South Africa since 2010, winning just one of the last 15 matches between the two sides.
Scotland wins: 5
South Africa wins: 23
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South Africa: 1/6
á§Odds via Betfair.
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Victory in this match would put either side in a brilliant position to qualify for the quarter-finals, easing the pressure somewhat before both play Ireland.
It’s hard to look past the Springboks, with that forward pack capable of overpowering any side in the world, and that big win over New Zealand was a major statement heading into the serious business.
Scotland might be able to stay within touch for the first hour or so, but the reinforcements off the bench should see South Africa pull away.
South Africa to win, by 15 points.
Scotland lineup and team news
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Scrum-half Ben White is fit for Scotland heading into the World Cup, having suffered an injury scare in the first warm-up match against France. He recovered from that ankle issue to start last time out against Georgia.
Stuart McInally, Murphy Walker, Josh Bayliss and Jamie Dobie were the four to be dropped from the initial 37-man training squad.
Scotland show five changes from the side that beat Georgia, with Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray all returning in the pack. Blair Kinghorn is in at full-back in the only alteration to the backline.
Scotland XV: Kinghorn; Graham, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe; Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson; R Gray, Gilchrist; Ritchie (c), Darge, Dempsey
Replacements: Cherry, Bhatti, Nel, Cummings, M Fagerson, Price, Redpath, Smith
South Africa lineup and team news
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Siya Kolisi is back for South Africa, with the inspirational Springboks captain completing a remarkable recovery from injury to be fit in time to lead his country in France. He had knee surgery in April and made a successful return against Wales last month.
South Africa are though without experienced fly-half Handre Pollard (calf) and centre Lukhanyo Am (knee) for the tournament.
Boks coach Jacques Nienaber has made four changes to the side that dismantled the All Blacks having named his team to meet Scotland two days early.
Cheslin Kolbe is back on the wing at the expense of Makazole Mapimpi, who isn’t even named among the replacements, with centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel replacing Andre Esterhuizen and the injured Canan Moodie. Jasper Wiese is also named at No8, with Duane Vermeulen on the bench.
Damian Willemse is chosen ahead of Willie le Roux at full-back, with Nienaber picking a 6-2 bench split after his much talked about 7-1 to face New Zealand.
South Africa XV: D Willemse; K Arendse, J Kriel, D de Allende, C Kolbe; M Libbok, F de Klerk; S Kitshoff, M Marx, F Malherbe; E Etzebeth, F Mostert; S Kolisi (c), P du Toit, J Wiese
Replacements: B Mbonambi, O Nche, T Nyakane, R Snyman, M van Staden, D Vermeulen, G Williams, W le Roux
Where to watch South Africa vs Scotland
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TV channel: In the UK, the game will be broadcast live and free to air on ITV1, with coverage starting at 3:55pm.
Live stream: Fans will also be able to watch a free live stream online via the ITVX website and app.
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Good afternoon and welcome to Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of the Rugby World Cup clash between South Africa and Scotland.
Scotland have been dealt a very tough draw - more on that in a bit - and it doesn’t get much tougher than kicking things off against the defending champions.
Still, you have to beat the best to be the best, and Scotland are here to be just that. Kick-off is at 4.45pm BST, stick with us.