Captain Grant Gilchrist admitted Scotland had been blown away by a superior force in Saturday’s 55-6 defeat to South Africa but maintained that the experience would pay dividends for a side packed with youngsters.
The tourists went into the game seeking to extend their run of victories in the United States, Canada and Argentina, but Vern Cotter’s men were no match for the hosts, who ran in eight tries in a dominant display in Port Elizabeth.
Edinburgh lock Gilchrist believes it all went wrong from the kick-off, and he said: “It was a tough game. We had a poor start and that is not what we wanted against South Africa.
“We knew it would be tough but we started slowly and that did not help our cause. As the half went on, we got better but it is disappointing.
“We prepared all week to go flying into them and did not go out there fearing anyone. We came out as a young squad aiming to prove ourselves.
“There were a lot of guys given an opportunity to do out best. Every time we pull on the jersey we aim to do it proud. We are bitterly disappointed with the result but there were aspects out there with the young squad that we can be proud of.”
Head coach Cotter was ready to accept a dose of reality that had hit home after wins in the first three games of the tour. This was a step up and he found out that it could not be done with so many youngsters.
“It illustrated a lot of the things we are going to have to go away and work on to become competitive before the World Cup,” he said.
“Honestly, much as we hate losing, especially by a score like that, there are some very positive things to come out of it.
“Adam Ashe played his first game at 20, Grant Gilchrist has come in as captain and done exceptionally well. I think all the players have done well.
‘If we take away what we gave South Africa and add more of what we tried to develop on the field, then we can improve.
“We have to keep doing the good things and take away the bad stuff we didn’t do well. If we don’t offer as many opportunities to the opposition as we did today then we can shift in the right direction.
Cotter added: “It was a brave effort, the guys never gave up, now it is a question of channelling energy and decision making in the right way.”
At the start, the Scots twice allowed South Africa through the first tackle. Penalties came but the hosts refused the easy points and went for the line-out and inevitable rolling maul.
The first go was stopped but they kept pounding the Scots line and eventually flanker Marcell Coetzee forced his way over with Pollard adding the conversion.
Scotland did manage to claw their way back with a Duncan Weir penalty but soon after Springbok centre Jan Serfontein came on the crash ball to set the Scots on the back foot and full-back Willie Le Roux finished with style just inside the touchline. Pollard again added the extras.
The Scots did have a couple of sniffs at the home line but managed to lose the ball both times, and soon were back defending with Serfontein crashing through to cause enough mayhem in the Scots defence for Le Roux to score.
Bad was soon worse as centre JP Pietersen cut cleanly through and his chip ahead was perfectly placed for wing Lwazi Mvovo to beat the Scots’ cover to the ball and cross for the third try inside the first quarter.
With a secure scrum and solid line-out, Scotland took the game to South Africa but crucial mistakes cost them the chance to benefit until Weir added a second penalty just before the break.
Pollard started the points spree in the second half with a penalty before Coetzee was the man on the back of a rolling maul to claim his second try.
Soon after that the floodgates opened as Tim Swinson was sent to the sin bin. Pietersen found space out wide and his floated pass beat Tommy Seymour’s attempt to intercept, to lay on a score for Cornal Hendricks on his first international start.
Then Mvovo intercepted as the Scots tried to open out and raced clear to score in front of a crowd of more than 40,000.
The seventh try came when the Scots failed to take a high ball and lock Lodewyk De Jager ran the loose ball back for a 66th-minute touchdown on his first start.
De Jager then found himself in the right place in the 78th minute to capitalise on a Hendricks break and crash over for the eighth Springbok try. Pollard wrapped up the scoring with his sixth conversion.