By Alan Dymock
A BEATLES B-side, Helter Skelter was said to be the song that started it all for heavy metal.
“When I get to the bottom, I go back to the top of the slide,” the Scouse four-piece screeched. Rock ‘n’ roll indeed. Something, in fact, the Scotland national team can identify with after their recent loss to Samoa during their summer tour of South Africa.
The have slid down the IRB world rankings off the back of a 27-17 loss in Durban at the weekend, landing with hideous bump at 11th and blowing a hole through their forward cover in the process.
The climb back up is a rough one, with the South Africans waiting. No Geoff Cross, no Pat MacArthur, no Kelly Brown. Ryan Grant is off on the adventure of a lifetime in Australia. Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys has his work cut out just forcing to smile alongside his superior, Scott Johnson, while he goes about the job of strapping his forwards together for an ugly test, tantamount to cleaning up after a rave in a china shop.
Scotland have replaced MacArthur with Glasgow Warriors’ Fraser Brown, a man who has played most of his recent rugby with club side Heriot’s. Glasgow’s Jon Welsh had already gone out as cover for Ryan Grant as he jetted off to become a British and Irish Lion. Announcements are forthcoming as the management seek replacements for Cross, who has an injured shoulder, and Kelly Brown. They will not struggle for willing participants, particularly in Scotland where both Glasgow and Edinburgh are already into day two of their gruelling pre-season regimen. Who wouldn’t want to skip down-and-ups in the dirt and double daily weight sessions to trot around in the sun?
The problem is that this quadrangular tournament in South Africa has already proven itself to be nowhere near a holiday, but more of a hobbler as Scot after Scot gets cut off at the knees.
Samoa played well and splintered the Scottish defence, even if their set-piece wilted when faced with Scots’ drives. South Africa, on the other hand, will be more than capable at the set-piece and likely to lick some grinning chops as they wave the Scots towards the dank horribleness of the ruck.
The likes of Al Strokosch, Al Kellock and Sean Lamont may be looking forward to this aspect of confrontation, but the other must be urged not to get drawn into this game.
Scotland love to be plucky underdogs, but their resources are already spread supermodel-thin. They need to halt the slide down the rankings and they need to prove a lot to themselves. None of this is done by thumping into the headbashing and heavy work of the rocking Boks.