Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching the Scottish National Rugby team cross swords – or in this case, cleats – with the now #3 ranked South African Springboks. I was incredibly proud of my ancestors’ heritage when I saw that the Magic Thistles (that’s what you get when your national team doesn’t have a nickname, I just start making them up) were going to redeem themselves after a horrendous loss to New Zealand by holding off a late Springbok surge to upset South Africa 21-17 and deny the visitors their first Grand Slam (sweep of the Isles teams) in 50 years.
After this win, the Scots jumped up two spots to replace Ireland as the sixth-ranked team in the world, while Australia and South Africa once again traded the second and third world rankings once again.
Far from engaging in free-flowing, explosive rugby – which to give the hosts credit, they tried to do from time to time – Scotland scored their points the European way. Penalty kick, after kick, after kick, blah blah blah. Scottish fly-half Dan Parks scored all 21 points off of six penalty kicks and a surprise drop goal, while Springbok kicking machine Morne Steyn continued to add to his total points scored in international play with four penalty kicks. South African replacement flanker Willem Alberts scored a late try to try and revitalize the visitors, but it turned out to be too little, too late.
This week we’ve seen the aftermath of this game, with a shaken (but not stirred – wokka wokka wokka!) South African team trying to rebound with a win against an English team that has already upset Australia and full of players looking to show that perhaps the top three ranked teams in the IRB should not all be based in the Southern Hemisphere.
Meanwhile the Scots receive what should be a little bit of a reprieve when they face off against the Samoans, fresh off a 26-13 loss to England in Twickenham. Scotland need to be careful that they don’t lose their focus against a dangerous Samoan team that’s looking to rack up its first win on the European continent since beating Italy 13-9 in 2001, and its first win ever against Scotland.