The Springboks controlled the first half and then put together a second half of bone-jarring defence to hold off a determined Scottish onslaught at Murrayfield and record a 21-10 victory on Saturday.
As it was in their 16-12 defeat of Ireland, South Africa managed to exert their game on the opposition for only half the contest. In the other half, they were forced to repel wave after wave of attack.
After the game, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted to being unhappy with his team's performance in the second half. "I was disappointed with the second half because I really thought we had done everything we had set out to do in the early part of the game," he said.
Nonetheless, he was hugely impressed by his charges' commitment in defence, which he described as "awesome".
"We'll take the win – it was ugly, but that's how you win trophies, especially the World Cup," he said, which would not have excited South African supporters still looking for more from the team on attack. Then again, it was the right result when reflecting on the last time the teams met in 2010 when Scotland won 21-17 and prevented the Springboks producing a Grand Slam winning tour.
Whether or not victory was achieved with the kind of rugby that wins World Cups is debatable. World Cup winners would usually deal with the Six Nations' wooden spoon team more convincingly – witness New Zealand's 51-22 victory a week earlier – while the defensive battle for the title might come later between two more highly ranked sides.
Captain Jean de Villiers commented: "Defence is not something you can coach entirely. It comes from within and the attitude you show there reflects your attitude towards the team and its cause."
Scotland's coach Andy Robinson said: "Last week we were facing speed [when we played the All Blacks], this week it was physicality. They were the toughest team we've played against. They showed the gulf that exists between the sides."
Flyhalf Patrick Lambie was included for the Ireland and Scotland tests after displaying good form in the Absa Currie Cup and dictating play. Yet, one gets the feeling, his natural game is being curbed in the international game and he is being asked to be too much like his predecessor, Morne Steyn, relying mostly on the boot set up play.
A sideways move
It all seems like a bit of a sideways move. If Lambie has been selected on the basis of his form, one would hope that he would be allowed to exhibit it, but his natural attacking instincts appear to have been curbed by coach Meyer's conservative approach. Sure, the Springboks have won against Ireland and Scotland, but those wins would likely not have excited or impressed many of the team’s supporters.
One man who has made a massively positive impression, though, is flanker Francois Louw. He was all over the field against the Scots, making tackle after tackle and stealing ball. His work rate is superb and effectiveness equally good. And his form was a continuation of the fine showing he put up against Ireland.
In the continuing absence of Bismarck du Plessis, Andries Strauss has proved himself an international class hooker. On Saturday, his lineout throwing was pin-point. He was scrumming was strong and he also scored two tries, one after good work at the back of a rolling maul, the second as the result of excellent anticipation, leading to a fantastic one-handed interception, which he turned into a try.
The Boks' first points at Murrayfield came from a turnover forced by Francois Louw, which became a penalty, converted by Lambie.
Before that, however, there was an interesting call by referee George Clancy, who penalised South Africa for obstruction from a lineout. The Scots appeared to engage the maul and then disengage, but Clancy ruled they had never contested the maul, resulting in the obstruction call.
Greig Laidlaw levelled the score at 3-3 after Scotland won a penalty at a ruck after 10 minutes, but Lambie nosed the men in green and gold ahead after 14 minutes when Laidlaw was offsides at a lineout.
Midway through the half, captain Jean de Villiers opted against an easy penalty kick at goal and had Lambie kick for the corner. From the lineout, the Springboks drove for the try line and tore apart the Scottish defence to allow Strauss to crash over for his first try. A missed conversion left South Africa 11-3 ahead.
Laidlaw had a chance to reduce the deficit after South Africa were penalised for playing the ball on the ground at a ruck, but he hooked his effort.
After a strong run from Francois Louw, Scotland conceded a penalty by entering the ruck from the side and Lambie's successful kick at goal extended South Africa's lead to 14-3.
Scotland skipper Kelly Brown followed Jean de Villiers' example when he chose to kick to touch instead of taking a kick at goal, but fast and strong Springbok defence kept the home team out until Louw forced a penalty at a ruck.
The teams went into half-time with the visitors in charge and they soon improved their position when Strauss pulled down a pass from scrumhalf Mike Blair and ran through to dot down next to the uprights only six minutes into the second half. Lambie added the extras to make it 21-3 in favour of the Boks.
From that point on, however, Scotland dominated field position and possession.
Just five minutes after the Boks' scored their second try, Henry Pyrgos, on for Blair at scrumhalf, sliced through the middle of a lineout close to the South African line to go over untouched after a clinically executed set move. Laidlaw's successful conversion made it South Africa 21, Scotland 10, but more importantly it lifted the home crowd and team.
On the hour-mark, the Scots charged down two Springbok kicks in succession and came close to scoring, but they could not find a way through after forcing a five-metre lineout.
With only 10 minutes remaining, the Scots again kicked for touch, but went unrewarded. A number of penalties went their way until, with four minutes left, replacement lock Flip van der Merwe was shown a yellow card for entering a ruck from the side.
Eightman David Denton drove his way to within centimetres of the line and Tim Visser knocked on as the Scots continued to exert heavy pressure on South Africa.
With time almost up, Scotland were stopped after they took a penalty quickly and possession was turned over.
Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar booted the ball downfield and when the Springboks were awarded a kickable penalty they chose not to kick at posts, but instead knocked the ball into touch to seal a hard-fought victory.