By Katie Field, Rugby World writer
TWO YEARS ago, Scotland went into a Murrayfield Test against South Africa on the back of a 46-point defeat by New Zealand and upset the odds to win 21-17. Last Sunday the Scots lost 51-22 to the All Blacks, so they need to show similar character and resilience to defeat the Springboks in Edinburgh this Saturday.
If Andy Robinson’s side can win, they will reap the extra reward of moving up from ninth in the IRB World Rankings and into the all-important top eight.
South Africa have won no less than 16 of their 21 clashes with Scotland down the years so they won’t fear this weekend’s opponents. They have won just five of the ten Tests they have played in 2012, but the last of those wins came in Dublin a week ago, when they recovered from going 12-3 down to beat Ireland 16-12.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has made two changes to his team, starting Gurthro Steenkamp at loosehead and Juan de Jongh at outside centre, with CJ van der Linde and Jaco Taute dropping to the bench.
Steenkamp has not played for South Africa for more than a year, but would have been picked last weekend if he had been fit.
Robinson has also made two changes to his Scotland team, with Euan Murray and Dave Denton coming into the pack. Tighthead Murray, who missed last Sunday’s Test for religious reasons, forces Geoff Cross back onto the bench while Denton is in for the injured Ross Rennie, with skipper Kelly Brown shifting to openside to allow Denton to wear No 8.
On the bench, Dougie Hall, who last played for Scotland in the 2011 World Cup, is preferred to Scott Lawson thanks to his great form for Glasgow Warriors and the uncapped Peter Murchie is among the replacements for the same, reason, preferred to Max Evans partly because of his ability under the high ball.
Must do better
Meyer wants to see an improvement from last weekend’s Springbok performance. “The Scots scored three tries against the All Blacks – which is more than any other team has managed against them this year. They will not be an easy opponent on Saturday, but we’ve also brushed off some cobwebs in Dublin and have had a good week on the training field.”
Robinson expects the battle between the two packs to be most crucial. “They have an incredible maul, probably the best maul in world rugby. They got back into the game against Ireland with the maul and the power of that maul. So it will be a great battle in terms of the lineout and our ability to contest South Africa’s ball, but also not allow them to establish mauls.”
If the Scotland pack can secure some good ball, Greig Laidlaw is more than capable of matching the 21 points which Dan Parks kicked last time the two sides met, while Tim Visser showed last week, with his two tries, that he is more than capable of turning chances to points at Test level.
Prediction: With South Africa ranked two in the world, and Scotland nine, it seems foolish to anticipate a home win, but this Scotland team has the character to upset the odds and win by five points.
SCOTLAND v SOUTH AFRICA, Saturday 17 November, 2.30pm, Murrayfield, Live on BBC1
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Alasdair Strokosch, Kelly Brown (captain), David Denton.
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Kyle Traynor, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, John Barclay, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Peter Murchie
SOUTH AFRICA: Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, CJ Van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Morne Steyn, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).