Springboks sweating over the fitness of star second-row Eben Etzebeth

Colin Newboult

Eben Etzebeth in action for the Springboks against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup in 2023

The injury to second-row Eben Etzebeth was the only drawback to what was an otherwise ideal start to the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup campaign.

South Africa were met by a defiant Scotland side, who matched the defending champions’ physical onslaught in the first half.

The Boks’ pressure eventually told, however, as they earned an 18-3 victory over Gregor Townsend’s men to begin Pool B with a vital win.

They did it without Etzebeth for over 50 minutes, with the lock suffering a shoulder problem according to head coach Jacques Nienaber.

Update later on Monday

“To be honest, I’d lie if I tell you about the extent of his injury now,” Nienaber said.

“I haven’t even spoken to the team doctor yet, but it will probably be assessed on Monday. During the game, they said it was his shoulder and that’s why he came off.

“But I really can’t say anything else because I’d speculate. I have no clue.”

South Africa showed their strength in depth as replacement RG Snyman shone after coming onto the field.

Snyman played a key role in the triumph over a Scotland side that gave as good as they got, certainly from a physical standpoint, for most of the game.

The Springboks weren’t quite at their clinical best as they failed to take their opportunities in the first half, but Nienaber believed that it was partly down to the efforts of Townsend’s outfit.

“It was a slippery one,” said Nienaber. “Scotland are ranked fifth in the world, and we could see how they pushed against France in their warm-up games, so we knew it would be a grind.

“The historical winning margin between the teams is 15 points and it was the same today. They are a tough team who get stuck in, so it was always going to be a tough battle.

“That said, this is the first step in the right direction. It’s going to be difficult to get out of our pool, so our only focus right now is on Romania.”

Keeping Scotland out

With Finn Russell at fly-half and the likes of Duhan van der Merwe on the wing, Scotland have the threats to cut open any international defence.

It was therefore to the Boks’ great credit that they managed to limit their opponents to three points and just one real try-scoring chance when Darcy Graham broke through.

“Defence is beautiful for me,” Nienaber added. “All credit to Scotland. They play with great speed and innovation on attack, so we had to be really sharp to cut out their options.

“The players worked very hard off and on the field this past week to keep them at bay.”

READ MORE: South Africa v Scotland: Five takeaways from Rugby World Cup clash as Springboks show title credentials