All you need to know about Scotland's upcoming showdown with the Springboks this weekend.
Autumn Internationals Scotland v South Africa preview
There has been a lot of mutual respect flying between the Scots and Boks this week as South Africa head to Murrayfield for the first time since 2013 – the pair last met in Newcastle in 2015.
Both teams have had moments to savour and reason to cringe so far this November. Scotland stumbled once again in Cardiff against Wales, but registered a big win against Fiji at home. South Africa, meanwhile have lost by a squeak against England and then fallen from the jaws of defeat against France to take a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it victory.
With both teams right beside each other in the World Rugby Rankings (Scotland are sixth with the Springboks in fifth), and with Scotland winning nine of their last ten Tests at home, South Africa have put out as robust a squad as they can muster. Will Gregor Townsend’s charges play, as Boks boss Rassie Erasmus describes, with a Super Rugby-style?
Although, amazingly, there is no official trophy or trinket to hand to the winner of this fixture, it feels like a November-defining weekend for both sides.
What’s the big team news?
Townsend has changed six from the team that defeated Fiji. Centre Huw Jones returns to the fray to partner auxiliary playmaker Pete Horne. In the pack, Gordon Reid comes in at loosehead, vice-captain and hooker Stuart McInally is reinstated while work-horses Jonny Gray, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson slide into the back five of the scrum.
There is a sense of the familiar with Scotland’s half-backs as France-based pair Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw settle in as half-backs. But Adam Hastings is waiting in the wings should the adventurous Glasgow Warriors fly-half be called upon to add a running threat.
South Africa have made just two changes with lock RG Snyman in for the imposing Eben Etzebeth and scrum-half Embrose Papier handed a start with Faf de Klerk returning to Sale Sharks.
With Snyman called in and Warren Whiteley struggling with a calf complaint, Pieter-Steph du Toit shifts from lock to back row. This in turn shunts Duane Vermuelen back to No 8.
What have the coaches said?
Gregor Townsend said: “Their traditional strength has always been their physicality and this remains a key point of difference for them. We expect them to be confrontational and powerful in their ball carrying, their defence and also at set-piece time. It will be a great challenge for our forward pack in particular.
“South Africa have always had a smart kicking game with an excellent chase but what we’ve seen over the past few months is an ambition to move the ball from counter attack and a push to get their forwards passing the ball more.
“Our defence will have to be strong to nullify this ambitious attacking game plan.”
South Africa’s Rassie Erasmus said: “We know we are going to face well-coached, fit, energetic team that is good in their systems. They are maybe not the biggest team in the world but what they lack in size they make up for with intensity, speed and a great system.
“We know their record at home, smashing teams. They put 50 points on Australia, they beat England proper, they beat Argentina well on the road. We know what are in for. It is going to be a tough game.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Scotland have only scored one try against South Africa in their previous three meetings.
- Scotland have only lost at home once in the last ten matches there – losing by five points to New Zealand in 2017.
- Rassie Erasmus has a 50% win ratio with South Africa.
- The last time these two met at Murrayfield, Scotland did not score a single point.
- The last Scotland player to score a try against South Africa was Tommy Seymour, who scored a hat-trick last weekend.
- Gregor Townsend beat South Africa three times as a player – twice on the 1997 Lions tour, and once with Scotland in 2002.
The match in Edinburgh kicks off at 5.20pm and is live on BBC2 as well as BBC Radio Scotland.
French referee Romain Poite will be in charge of proceedings, with Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand and Frank Murphy of Ireland as his assistants. Kiwi Ben Skeen is the TMO.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.
South Africa:Willie le Roux; Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Handré Pollard, Embrose Papier; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.
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Replacements:Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.