South Africa take control of Pool B

South Africa took a giant step towards the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday with a comprehensive 34-16 victory over Scotland in Newcastle.

The Springboks outscored Scotland three tries to one in front of almost 51,000 fans at St. James' Park, moving to the top of Pool B in the process. The result also means that victory over the USA on Wednesday will secure Heyneke Mayer's team a place in the pay-off stages.

The shock defeat by Japan in the opening round seems well and truly a thing of the past now as the Boks backed up last week's impressive win over Samoa with another convincing display to restore their status as genuine contenders for the world title.

Vern Cotter picked a significantly heavier side than a week earlier but Scotland could not match the Springboks for pure grunt with the blue jerseys being driven back whenever they took on the Bok defensive wall. 

South Africa were good value for their 20-3 lead at the interval with Schalk Burger and JP Pietersen both having scored tries. 

Tommy Seymour touched down for Scotland early in the second half, against the run of play, but Handre Pollard's boot and a late try from Bryan Habana secured the spoils for South Africa.

The Boks ruled the possession stats, forcing Scotland to make a truckload of tackles. South Africa also dominated territory in the first half and Scotland's shaky set-piece did not help their cause as they gave away possession at both lineout and scrum time. 

The Springboks drew first blood as the power of their pack produced the opening try after a series of pick-and-drives saw Burger muscle his way over. He needed some help from Bismarck du Plessis to get the ball onto the grass but the TMO was satisfied that the try was legitimate. 

Pollard added the conversion and a penalty shortly thereafter as WP Nel was penalised for illegally trying to stop the Bok maul from rumbling any further forward, meaning South Africa held a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Scottish lineout made amends for their previous errors by stealing a Bok lineout five metres short of the try-line after the South Africans had opted to chase a try rather than three points from a penalty. 

But some poor kicking from Scotland gave the Springbok back three chances to attack and the resultant pressure gave Pollard a chance to extend the lead after a ruck penalty.

The otherwise outstanding Lood de Jager was penalised for pulling a Scottish lineout jumper down and Greig Laidlaw stepped forward to open Scotland's account, making it 13-3 on the half-hour mark. 

Jannie du Plessis threw Scotland a lifeline when he saw yellow for not using his arms when clearing out a ruck but Laidlaw's shot at goal fell short. 

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Boks would score their second try as Pietersen crossed from short range after a huge South African drive handed the Bok backs a chance to score on a platter. 

Pollard added the extras to give South Africa a 17-point lead at the half-time break. The writing was on the wall.

Scotland still had an extra man as the second half kicked off and they immediately backed themselves to score by kicking to the corner from a penalty. The Bok defence stood firm however and Laidlaw opted for three points from a penalty against Duane Vermeulen.

Scotland's first try finally came from deep inside their own half after Duncan Weir intercepted a Pollard pass and bolted clear to set up the try for Seymour, with Tim Visser providing the link.

Laidlaw's conversion  brought Scotland back within striking distance but Pollard immediately replied with a neat drop goal to stretch the lead to ten points. 

Scotland skipper Laidlaw earned himself ten minutes in the sin-bin for pulling Habana down after the Bok wing had kicked ahead. 

With Laidlaw still in the bin, Weir pulled three points back after Pollard was pinged for a side entry, but the South African fly-half made amends when he replied with a penalty from over 50m and then another from close range – both against Dave Denton. 

Habana showed great strength to finished well in a tight situation in the corner in the dying minutes to put the result beyond doubt as South Africa walked away deserving winners.

Man of the match: Victor Matfield's presence was hardly missed with Lood de Jager having a huge game. One of South Africa's top tacklers, he was excellent at the defensive lineouts and made ground with every carry. 

Moment of the match: Scotland were always going to struggle to come back after Pietersen's try just before half-time. Once the Boks had a decent lead, they could control the game.

Villain of the match: Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg's ballerina dive has no place in rugby.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries: Burger, Pietersen, Habana
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 4
Drop: Pollard
Yellow card: J. du Plessis

For Scotland:
Try: Seymour
Con: Laidlaw
Pens: Laidlaw 2, Weir
Yellow card: Laidlaw

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira  
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein 

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont

Venue: St James' Park, Newcastle  
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) 
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales) 
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

By Ross Hastie in Newcastle