South Africa start Rugby World Cup title defence by beating Scotland

© Pavel Golovkin, AP

South Africa kicked off the defence of their Rugby World Cup title with an 18-3 victory over Scotland in the teams' opening Pool B match in Marseille on Sunday.

The Springboks, featuring 14 of the match-day squad of 23 that beat England in the 2019 final, were made to work hard for the win, with just two Manie Libbok penalties to show for their first-half graft, Finn Russell pulling one back for Scotland.

A brace of tries within three minutes from Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse early in the second period, however, turned the game.

"I'm just stoked that the first step went the way it did," said Libbok, whose cross-kick for Arendse's try effectively dashed Scotand's hopes.

"I'm grateful for my forwards to give me the platform. I saw the space out wide so I went there. I'm pleased it came off."

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend praised his side's initial defence but rued a second-half marred by errors.

"We defended well in the first half, we then grew into the game and the set-piece," he said.

"We felt we could kick on in the second half. They won the third quarter hands down and a lot of that was down to their good play and our inaccuracy."

It was the first time South Africa have won their first match at a World Cup since they edged out Wales 17-16 in 2011, having then gone on to opening-game defeats by New Zealand in 2019 and Japan four years earlier.


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