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Slow start left Scots too far off the pace

There is a real sense of disappointment at an opportunity missed after this meeting with South Africa.

I really thought we would beat them in this match. I never expected to beat New Zealand, but, for all that South Africa have a very physical side, as they always are, there's not a lot of flair there so I thought we could get the better of them.

It was a poor first half, pretty slow. The South Africans were dominant and carried the ball well, whereas we missed a lot of first-up tackles, letting them get a bit of go-forward and they got their points from that.

The second half was far better. We started to try to play a bit more and, crucually, play a bit faster. We got a bit of ball to the extent that the possession was 60/40 to Scotland. It was just frustrating. They were very physical. They slowed us down and it was frustrating.

The try they got early in the second half killed us. It was a real shame. Mike Blair made that pass when we were trying to speed things up and play quickly. I'm not sure Adriaan Strauss was onside, but he took his chance well and that probably took away our chance of winning the game.

You can't afford to give teams like South Africa leads like we gave them. You're never going to claw that back. They are a quality side and they play a certain type of rugby and they are not going to change.

We knew what we were going to get yesterday. We were trying to play the game a bit quicker but Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg didn't get the ball in their hands enough in the first half to offer a real threat to the South Africans.

To be fair to Scotland, they came back into it well and scored a fantastic try through Henry Pyrgos, who came off the bench and did really well.

I wasn't sure would be up to that level, but I was really impressed with the way he played.

I was initially a bit surprised at him being brought in when we had Greig Laidlaw as cover for scrum-half, but to see a planned training ground move come off like that was great. It was a pity we couldn't get over for at least another try in that second half, though.

It was a totally different game from last week against the All Blacks when we faced a rugby side who were playing at pace. South Africa are all about physicality. They broke tackles with ease at times in the first half and gained a huge advantage from that.

In terms of our big men, I was disappointed with Richie Gray early on, while Jim Hamilton tired visibly. He's probably not quite as fit as he should be at the moment. He's a big unit and we need him working really hard for the full 80 minutes.

On the other side of that, I thought Kelly Brown was outstanding. His workrate set the standard. I'm a wee bit biased, I suppose, but it was his pass that put Henry in for the try and he encompasses everything that is good about the Scottish mentality, the spirit that we have.

I thought South Africa's hooker and their back-row were very impressive. Players like Kelly and Dave Denton did fight back at times but too many tackles were taken on their terms rather than ours.

So Tonga is now a must-win game for us to try to regain some confidence. I would think a 20-point win would be excellent.

Looking at things overall I do think we'll get better. It's disappointing not to be in the top eight for the World Cup qualifying but you've got to look beyond that and take the positives out of it. We've got to be more physical and do our basics far better and make our first-up tackles.

Tonga are a totally different proposition. It's a game where you can't throw the ball about because if you give the Tongans and Samoans targets they knock you down hard. We can't afford to be loose.

We've got to kick very well and put them under pressure, turn their big forwards and I think our fitness and professionalism should see us through.

It's one of these games that will probably be won in the last 25 or 30 minutes so if we look after the ball, keep possession and go through the phases, get our driving line-outs and pick-and-gos going and we'll break them down.

There are things that we've done really well at times this year and they can pay dividends. We've got to be very, very patient and the chances will come – but we have to be clinical when they do.

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