Glasgow Caledonians... 9 South Africa.. .62

The real Springboks may still be in London, but their understudies put on a magnificent performance to sweep aside a Glasgow Caledonians side which contained seven internationalists and three southern hemisphere imports at Firhill last night.

This was a side putting down a marker for the month ahead as they responded wonderfully to captain Bobby Skinstad's pre-match call to set the tone for the entire tour.

Yet their captain remained critical of their performance afterwards, demonstrating not contempt for Glasgow Caledonians, but the high standards that South African sides now set themselves.

''Some individuals came through pretty well, but our phased play wasn't all that impressive,'' he said. ''I made a few mistakes at the base of the scrum, and some of our work at lineouts and receiving the ball was poor.''

A more accurate assessment of their performance came from beaten Glasgow Caledonians coach Keith Robertson, who must have been deeply worried by how easily his men were pushed aside when the Springboks decided to up the pace.

''They showed that you must do the basics well, running hard, running straight and not dropping the ball. They didn't turn the ball over the way we did, and they showed a lot of skills despite the conditions. They are big, powerful and very strong and they also gave us a lesson in tackling,'' he said.

Every word of that was absolutely true. The relative pace of these wonderfully athletic visitors was demonstrated not only by their back line, which featured the searing quickness of Bryton Paulse, who has wowed Scottish crowds before at the Melrose sevens, and Robbie Fleck.

Captain Skinstad's break from the base of the scrum midway inside his own half, reaching the opposition 22 before being tackled, only to put Paulse in for the penultimate try, was perhaps a stronger indicator of the relative abilities of the two sides.

As to power, a first half collision between Glasgow Caledonians No.8 Gordon Mackay and Springbok winger Laurens Venter ended with honours even, but the back certainly didn't come off second best.

The ease with which the first two tries were registered was deeply worrying from a Scottish point of view, as Selborne Boome drove in off the back of a lineout, straight through opposite number Stewart Campbell's attempted tackle, before Adrian Vos went through three attempted tackles to put Paulse in for the first of his hat trick of scores.

Thereafter the home side did show rather more resolve, and hooker Kevin McKenzie at least had the pleasure of nicking a couple of strikes against the head as consolation for the defeat.

Their handling defying the miserable conditions, rain blowing across Firhill on a bitterly cold evening, the Springboks almost looked capable of scoring at will, and further tries by the outstanding Fleck and Venter gave them a 26-9 half-time lead.

For Glasgow Caledonians it was a cause for even greater concern that the individual in their ranks who looked most capable of taking the Springboks on was a man who has barely been exposed to professional rugby Scottish style.

New Zealander John Leslie was his side's outstanding player, his effort marked by three wonderful pursuits then catches of towering up and unders from Luke Smith.

For him the honour of scoring a try would have been just reward, but under Nick Mallett's coaching, defence is as important to the Springboks as their attacking flair and, albeit Tommy Hayes' boot denied them a clean sheet, they were clearly determined to try to keep one.

The second half saw Gaffie du Toit take his chance to demonstrate his skill and fleetness of foot in setting up the field position which earned his side a close-range scrum, from which he duly strolled over for another too easy score.

Fleck claimed his second try, van Straaten crossed the line to add a try to his six conversions, before he went off with a head injury, and Skinstad claimed a captain's score, racing in untouched from 40 metres out.

History was duly made in 62 minutes when Owen Nkumane entered the fray to become the first black Springbok, but his colleagues ensured that, on this occasion at least, the burden of a nation's expectation was the only pressure upon him.

Sadly, the night ended on a sour note, Mallett threatening to cite a Glasgow Caledonians player after revealing that a stud had come right through the stand-off's protective headgear.

They didn't know who was responsible, so were going to check the video before taking matters further.

As they did so, though, there were many more pleasant things to look out for as South Africa's second string made a declaration of intent.

Glasgow Caledonians: T Hayes; J Craig (A Bulloch 56 mins), I Jardine, J Leslie, D Stark; L Smith, D Patterson; G McIlwham, K McKenzie (G Scott 65 mins), A Kittle, S Campbell, G Perrett, J White, J Shaw (G Flockhart 16-20 & 59 mins), G Mackay.

South Africa: G du Toit; L Venter (D Kayser 62 mins), R Fleck, C Stewart, B Paulse; B van Straaten (R Markram 70 mins), W Swanepoel (C Alcock 62 mins); W Meyer , N Drotske (O Nkumane 62 mins), O Le Roux (T van der Linde 40 mins), S Boome, J Trystman, C Krige, A Vos, B Skinstadt. Replacements - D Kayser, R Markram, C Alcock, P Smit, O Nkumane, T van der Linde.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Caledonians first): 0-7, 0-14, 3-14, 3-19, 6-19, 6-26, 9-26 (half-time) 9-33, 9-38, 9-45, 52, 9-57, 9-62.

Scorers: Glasgow Caledonians: pens - Hayes (17, 25, 40 mins). South Africa: tries - Boome (4 mins), Paulse (7, 74, 79 mins), Fleck (22, 48 mins), Venter (34 mins), du Toit (44 mins), van Straaten (58 mins), Skinstad (63 mins); cons - van Straaten (4, 7, 34, 44, 58, 63 mins).