The Scotland head coach saw his 100% winning run come to an end as the eight-try defeat showed up a stark difference in the quality of the respective nations’ fringe players as Springboks newcomers Lwazi Mvovo and Lood de Jaager both bagged two tries and 20-year-old outside-half Handré Pollard was solid on debut.
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
After wins against the USA, Canada and Argentina, the final match of Scotland’s tour was a step too far for a contest taking place outside of the IRB international window with a weak and out-of-sorts defence unable to live with South Africa’s running rugby.
“It illustrated a lot of the things we are going to have to go away and work on to become competitive before the Rugby World Cup,” said Cotter.
“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.
“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.”
Despite the loss of a number of senior players, Scotland had a team with a sense of familiarity. An experienced front row—boasting 142 caps between them ahead of the match—have played together at Edinburgh for some time along with lock Grant Gilchrist, who was again captain and lineout caller.
The entire backline was a Glasgow Warriors party gatecrashed by former Edinburgh outside centre Nick de Luca, making his 43rd Test appearance with late second-half cameos from Edinburgh scrum-half Grayson Hart and winger Dougie Fife.
South Africa also had new-look combinations: Mvovo and Cornal Hendricks on the wings, JP Pietersen and Jan Serfontein still a new centre partnership, and Pollard with scrum-halves Fourie du Preez then Francois Hougaard new partnerships at half-back.
The gruelling globe-trotting tour has offered the former Clermont Auvergne coach an opportunity to see first-hand many of the players available to him ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup—where South Africa will be among their Pool B opponents—with two squads selected for the four matches, and the New Zealander is convinced there is plenty of room for improvement.
“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,” Cotter added.
“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.”
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news
BIOGRAPHY: Mohamed Salah