Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)
Newcastle - The Springboks young bucks have been toasted for South Africa's rapid return to form in the World Cup as coach Heyneke Meyer said the side relished being underdogs.
The hostile reaction from their fans to the shock loss to Japan in their opening game has been turned into a plus.
"We're at our best if we've been written off," Meyer said after they held off a spirited fightback by Scotland to win 34-16 in Newcastle on Saturday.
The three tries to one victory set up a classic finale to Pool B.
South Africa, Scotland and Japan have two wins each and one game left to determine which two sides will go through to the quarter-finals.
Meyer singled out 21-year-old fly-half Handre Pollard and locks, Lodewyk de Jager, 23, the man of the match, and Eben Etzebeth, 24, as central to beating Scotland as they backed up after downing Samoa.
After racing to a 20-3 lead, Scotland twice clawed their way back to being only seven points behind only to have Pollard coolly extend the lead first with a drop goal and then a long-range penalty.
"He's (Pollard) still a youngster and I thought it was a total performance," Meyer said.
"We know he can run and he can tackle but he was tactically brilliant."
Pollard's drop goal was a make-good effort after moments earlier he had floated a pass which Scotland fly-half Duncan Weir intercepted to spark the 90 metre movement for the Scots sole try.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter rued the way his forwards were monstered in the first half and they were forced into playing catch-up rugby in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to continue their unbeaten run in the tournament.
"We were dominated in that contact area and we struggled to move forward so when you don't move forward in this game it becomes difficult," he said.
"We were getting pushed behind the gain line at times."
Meyer said that's where de Jager and Etzebeth were to the fore and showed the value of learning from veteran lock Victor Matfield.
"They're going to be great players going forward. I'm very happy with the scrums and set pieces, I thought those youngsters worked brilliantly at the lineouts, the winning and losing of the game," he said.
"They put Scotland under pressure in the lineouts. They couldn't get a lot of clean ball in the beginning and they couldn't play from there. It shows the influence of Victor working with them."
If South Africa, with the benefit of three bonus points already, beat United States in their final pool game next Wednesday they will qualify leaving Scotland and Japan, who play Samoa and the Americans respectively, battling for the second play-off spot.
With the United States yet to garner a point and the odds favouring South Africa, Meyer would be content if his unit were still considered underdogs.
"We have to keep the pressure on ourselves. I don't know why. It's part of the mentality.
"But if the whole world writes us off that's when we come back and we can add that ruthlessness and desperation going into Wednesday as well."