NOBODY should get too upset or fatalistic about this result. It was a loss against the world champions, who produced the sort of physical performance which saw them secure a 2-1 series victory over the British and Irish Lions this summer. Scotland came into this match with high hopes following last weekend’s success over Australia, but this was always going to be a serious step-up in intensity, and they couldn’t quite produce the level of play required. 

The hosts are right to be disappointed with the loss, but they can come away with their heads held high. They defended heroically at times, and three late penalties from the visitors means the final score-line doesn’t really reflect how delicately the game was balanced during the first hour. 

Stuart Hogg marked the occasion of becoming the male player who has started the most tier one Tests at full-back in rugby history with two well-taken tries, which means that he is also now tied with 1925 Grand Slammer Ian Smith and 1990 Grand Slammer Tony Stanger as the nation’s top try-scorers. 

But it wasn’t enough to inspire a victory which would have gone down as one of the greatest ever achieved by a Scotland team. Poor discipline and a set-piece being screwed into the ground left the home side with too much to overcome. 

After spending the first 12 minutes frantically defending their own line, Scotland drew first blood when Finn Russell fed Duhan van der Merwe  behind his own try-line and the big winger set off on a 50-yard diagonal rampage all the way to halfway, before being brought down by Jessie Kriel's desperate tap-tackle. Springbok full-back Willie Le Roux was penalised for coming round the side to stop the quick recycle and Russell kicked the points. 

Buoyed by this, the Scots swamped South Africa straight from the restart and Jamie Ritchie won a penalty when he got over the isolated le Roux, but this time Russell made a poor connection and his effort sailed harmlessly wide. 

South Africa squared it when Elton Jantjies kicked the points from right in front of the posts after Ritchie was punished for going off his feet, with referee Angus Gardner having a word with Hogg about the volume of infringements being committed by the home team. 

South Africa then cruised into the lead when Scotland got caught narrow on the left, and Siya Kolisi hooked Rufus McLean before giving Makazole Mapimpi a clear run at the line. Jantjies was nowhere near with the conversion. 

To their credit, Scotland bounced right back in sensational style, with Russell picking out van der Merwe on the left with cross-kick. He flipped the ball back inside to Hogg, who then fed Sam Skinner, who then brought van der Merwe back into the move. Chris Harris was next up, and although his pass was knocked down by Herschel Jantjies, it bounced kindly for Hogg to finish off. 

Russell nailed the conversion to edge his team ahead, although he missed another opportunity off the tee to stretch that advantage when Vincent Koch was penalised for not rolling away. 

The hosts will have been happier of the two sides at half-time, having managed to get their noses ahead despite hardly being in the game during the opening quarter of an hour. A second half response from the Springboks was almost inevitable, but the Scots will have felt that they also had more to give, and if they could get the penalty count under control then there was reason to believe that they could really stress their opponents. 

The first 10 minutes of the second half were going to be crucial and South Africa wasted no time in setting out their stall, blasting Scotland to win the ball back from the restart and then claiming try number two when Mapimpi once again did the damage. 

Elton Jantjies added the conversion, then kicked a penalty following a seatbelt tackle by Ritchie on Siya Kolisi. 

Hands in the ruck from Ritchie gave the Springboks three more points, meaning they had gone from two points behind to 11 points ahead inside the space of 15 minutes, without really breaking sweat. 

It looked ominous for the home side, but they kept fighting, and when a seatbelt tackle from Lukhanyo Am allowed Russell to kick to the corner, the Scots took full advantage, initially sucking their opponents in with a driven line-out, then sending it out to van der Merwe, who ran across the park to suck in the midfield defence and open up the space for Hogg to streak home. 

The Scotland skipper had pulled his side right back into the contest, but South Africa had another gear, and their mighty pack squeezed the life out of home resistance. Two penalties from Handré Pollard and one from Frans Steyn saw the visitors home. 

Scotland: S Hogg; R McLean (B Kinghorn 52), C Harris, M Scott (A Hastings 70), D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price (G Horne 70); P Schoeman (J Bhatti 62), S McInally (E Ashman 62), Z Fagerson (O Kebble 65), S Skinner (J Hodgson 71), G Gilchrist, N Haining (H Watson 52), J Ritchie, M Fagerson. 

South Africa: W le Roux (F Steyn 65); J Kriel, L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi; E Jantjies (H Pollard 61), H Jantjies (C Reinach 41); O Nché (S Kitshoff 40), B Mbonambi (M Marx 40), T Nyakane (V Koch 40), E Etzebeth, F Mostert (L de Jager 62), S Kolisi, K Smith, D Vermeulen (J Wiese, 75). 

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia) 

Scorers – Scotland: Tries: Hogg 2; Con: Russell; Pen: Russell. 

South Africa: Tries: Mapimpi 2; Con: E Jantjies; Pens: E Jantjies 3, Pollard 2, Steyn. 

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0; 3-3; 3-8; 8-8; 10-8 (h-t) 10-13; 10-15; 10-18; 10-21; 15-21; 15-24; 15-27; 15-30. 

Attendance: 67,144.