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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Savouring Scots success
Scotland celebrate at the final whistle
Scotland were 21-6 winners at Murrayfield on Saturday

It's probably hard for people outside our little country to understand it, but the last time we beat South Africa was 33 years ago.

In 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in black and white, the Beatles split up, Colonel Gadaffi became Libyan leader, the summer of love was just fading and Concorde had its first flight.

It was a very, very long time ago.

Beating South Africa turned a dark and wet Edinburgh into something nearing paradise as lovers of rugby stumbled through the city as if in disbelief.

Gordon Ross had turned the men in green back upon themselves with his kicking, the tackling had been sound, the scrummage sent them backwards, and Scottish ferocity didn't run out after twenty minutes.

South Africa is a proud rugby country, so they must be smarting.

And although the reality of life is that the boys in blue were awarded two marginal tries, the record books will forever read that Scotland crossed the line two times - thanks to Budge Pountney and Nikki Walker - in a famous victory.

Now, biltong is a tough and chewy substance the South Africans like to eat, but on Saturday's evidence it was soft and limp in the Scottish rain.

Gregor Townsend and Budge Poutney in action for Scotland
Scotland were tough in the tackle
The Scots, with Scott Murray and Tom Smith outstanding in the line-outs and scrummages, locked the Springbok forwards into a tight game and never let them go.

It was as if a Scottish python strangled the life out of a stray Springbok., with Pountney one of the prime muscles involved in the kill.

Tom Smith, my spies tell me, exhorted his troops to greater efforts at half time by telling them that the South Africans expected the Scots to wilt.

And that wily old coaching duo of Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan must have grinned as they saw their young charges do what the Lions had managed to do as well.

So what's it down to? Well, more than one player has said to me that in the olden days there was a gulf in sheer size between Scottish and South African players due to the semi professionalism that had existed in South Africa for a hundred years.

At last professionalism has given Scottish players the chance to train properly, and they play in a competitive environment called the European Cup against the French, who have been similarly uplifted by the strict rules of Northern Hemisphere rugby contact.

It was a pulsating game, played in terrible conditions, won by a brave Scottish team.

There are times that it is good to be Scottish, and this is one of those times.

And, with England and Ireland doing well, it is a great time to be a fan of British rugby.

Can they make it last until the World Cup? I hope so, because no Northern Hemisphere team has ever won the World Cup.

And never is even longer ago than 1969.

See also:

16 Nov 02 | International
16 Nov 02 | International
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