THE Springboks ripped Scotland apart at Murrayfield on Saturday in a breathtaking display of total rugby which saw them score 54 points in a devastating second half that underlined, quite emphatically, that they are once again a major force in the global game.

The South African renaissance is all the more extraordinary considering that their confidence was left in tatters by the mauling inflicted by the British Lions just six months ago.

Murrayfield has played host to some superb sides since it became the headquarters of the Scottish game 72 years ago but, for sheer virtuosity, few could hold a candle to Gary Teichmann and his born-again 'Boks on Saturday.

South African fullback Percy Montgomery was the man of the match. The Western Province man was fielded at centre by Carel du Plessis during the Lions' tour. He owes his fullback berth to Andre Joubert's tour-ending injury but, on the evidence of a rapier-like display at Murrayfield, Joubert - the prince of fullbacks - has been toppled from his pedestal by a young pretender.

On the kind of form which netted 26 points - two short of the South African match record - Montgomery will pose coach Nick Mallett a problem or two when next he sits down to pick a 'Bok side. That is the kind of problem that Scotland could handle quite easily.

The Scots battled gamely, bravely and ultimately in vain, throughout a first half that remedied the gutless performance turned in a fortnight ago against Australia. But guts and determination are no substitute for skill and ability.

Eventually, the pace and power of the South Africans took its toll on tired and weary Scottish bodies. Tackles were missed, concentration levels dropped and, when Scotland did have possession, it was conceded through poor kicking or by virtue of thunderous Springbok tackling.

So all-embracing was the South African's supremacy that they would not even allow Scotland the exclusivity of their anthem.

Even before a ball had been played, and as the teams lined up for the anthems, the Springboks had made themselves at home at Murrayfield with a lusty rendition of Flower of Scotland. Mark Andrews and James Small, in particular, were giving it ''laldy''.

Small said later that, as he went in successful pursuit of Danny Gerber's Springbok try record, he wanted everything about the day to be memorable. When Small had dotted down for the second time, and set a new mark of 21 tries, he immediately signalled that he was coming off the park - Scotland used as makeweights in a record attempt.

But what of Scotland? For the opening 20 minutes or so they played - as Mallett observed later - out of their skins and, as he put it, above themselves.

The lead was taken after 15 minutes through a Rowen Shepherd penalty goal. Three minutes later, after a rousing passage of play which got the Murrayfield crowd quite excited, Andy Nicol came within a metre of a try. The telling point, though, is that it was not scored. A chance like that which goes abegging is one that returns to haunt a hundredfold as the game goes on.

Then, midway through the first half, South Africa struck. They signalled their intent to score run-in tries from anywhere. The circumstances were particularly unfortunate for Scotland and deserve re-examination by the management team.

Tony Stanger had gone down hurt, blood oozing from a head wound. He left to be stitched up and intended substitute Duncan Hodge was left standing forlornly on the touchline as play resumed with a scrum - Scotland put-in - deep inside South African territory.

Scotland should have made sure that the game did not restart until Hodge was on. Stanger should have stayed on the turf, bleeding spectacularly, until Hodge was stripped and in position. Give the referee no option but to bring proceedings to a halt.

As it happened, Rob Wainwright was still remonstrating with Monsieur Thomas when the scrummage went down. The ball was lost, Scotland were a man down in defensive alignment, and, in an instant, Montgomery was in at the other end for a try.

Seven minutes before the interval 'Rassie' Erasmus had a flanker's backing-up try when his Free State colleague, Jannie de Beer, was almost there from a scrummage on the Scottish line. Montgomery converted in place of de Beer, who was soon to depart with knee ligament damage.

South Africa ended the first half 14-3 to the good and, much more ominously, with a spell of fierce driving rugby - rugby league style almost - which had the Scots rocking back on their heels.

It was a prelude of what was to come. In the second half South Africa ran riot. They were tossing the ball around seven-a-side style.

Craig Chalmers, the victim of a heavy tackle, was stretchered off after 52 minutes and, before long, his fierce competitive streak was sorely missed.

With an hour played the scoreline was still ''only'' 35-3 in South Africa's favour. The real damage was yet to be done.

But this, for Scotland, is the period of greatest danger. How often have Scottish sides folded in the final 20 minutes in recent years? Too often for comfort is the answer.

Derek Stark had a try - no consolation, not with a final scoreline like that - 10 minutes from the end. Shepherd's conversion made it 42-10 but, even in the short time remaining South Africa still had 26 points in the locker.

Small, Montgomery, Snyman and Smith each sliced through non-existent Scottish defence.

Frankly, the Springboks were scoring tries virtually at will. It was a rout turning into a riotous festival of South African tries.

Anyone who left before the end this time had, indeed, wasted their money. Unlike Australia this was a truly magnificent side.

Gary Teichmann's Springboks, coached by Nick Mallett, may yet become one of the great sides of the global game.

SCORERS: Scotland - Shepherd 1p 1c, Stark 1t. South Africa - Montgomery 2t 8c, Small 2t, Snyman 1t, Rossouw 1t,de Beer 1c, Erasmus 1t, Teichmann 1t, Venter 1t, Smith 1t.

Scotland - R Shepherd (Melrose and Caledonia); C Joiner (Leicester), A Stanger (Hawick and Scottish Borders), C Chalmers (Melrose and Scottish Borders), D Stark (Glasgow Hawks and Glasgow); G Townsend (Northampton), A Nicol (Bath); D Hilton (Bath), G Bulloch (West of Scotland and Glasgow), M Stewart (Northampton), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP and Caledonia), S Murray (Bedford), R Wainwright, capt, (Dundee HSFP and Caledonia), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Moseley). Substitutes - D Hodge (Watsonians and Edinburgh) for Chalmers (52 min), G Armstrong (Newcastle Falcons) for Nicol (64); P Walton (Newcastle Falcons) for Peters (72); G Graham (Newcastle Falcons) for Hilton (72).

South Africa - P Montgomery; J Small, A Snyman, D Muir, P Rossouw; J De Beer, W Swanepoel; O Du Randt, J Dalton, A Garvey, K Otto, M Andrews, J Erasmus, G Teichmann, capt, A Venter. Substitutes - F Smith for de Beer (35); J Swart for Small (72); W Meyer for du Randt (72).

Referee - P Thomas (France).