Preview: South Africa v Scotland

Date published: October 2 2015

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South Africa are preparing for a hostile reception when they face Scotland in Newcastle for their Pool B encounter on Saturday.

History is certainly against the Scots, as they have never defeated South Africa outside of Scotland.

That said, given Newcastle's proximity to the Scottish border, this may as well be considered a home game as fans are expected to flock over the border.

There is so much on the line for the Springboks, as a loss will put their chances of making the quarter-finals in major jeopardy. The two-time world champions only have themselves and perhaps Eddie Jones to blame, as the Australian was the mastermind behind the sensational Japanese win against them in their opening game.

However, Heyneke Meyer's men bounced back strongly with a six-try rout of Samoa on Saturday, with winger JP Pietersen crossing the whitewash for a hat-trick.

Meanwhile, Scotland enjoyed one of the easier starts to the competition, as they faced a tired Japan and the USA. Vern Cotter's charges have taken advantage of the fixture list and picked up their full allotment of points, leaving them sitting pretty the top of Pool B.

South Africa's tumultuous World Cup meanwhile continued as talismanic captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain Victor Matfield were both ruled out of Saturday's match, with the former retiring from international rugby and being put on the first flight home for an operation on his jaw.

This experience vacuum is bound to have an effect on the Springboks, but to what extent we will only know late on Saturday evening.

Meyer has named the mercurial Fourie du Preez as captain, favouring him over one-time test captain Schalk Burger. While Matfield's absence in the line-out will be felt, Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager have proved themselves as worthy replacements.

Scotland's Richie and Jonny Gray will certainly look to put pressure on the comparatively inexperienced South African lineout.

However, the real branch of youth will be the 10, 11, 12 combination, which sees the 21 year-old Handré Pollard feeding 23-year-old Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel, who is also 21. 

The trio combine for just 23 caps and face a stern test of character on Saturday.

Scotland's loose trio of David Denton, new arrival Blair Cowan and Josh Struass on the other hand will do well to look after Burger, who leads the tournament in terms of carries with 37.

Ones to Watch: 

For South Africa: As mentioned, South Africa's centre paring of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel will come under the spotlight in the absence of former captain Jean de Villiers in the midfield.

De Allende put on a sterling performance against Samoa, providing energy with the ball in hand and staunch defence of his channel. After six carries over the gain line, he hobbled off with a knee injury in the second half. While Kriel was not as impressive, the fact that he has beaten six defenders so far gives us an insight into his ability.

For Scotland: Flanker Josh Strauss will no doubt be relishing the chance to run at his former countrymen. The Cape Town-born loose forward has a great work-rate, proven by his 19 tackles and seven carries. In the absence of line-out supremo Victor Matfield, Richie and Jonny Gray will be looking to spoil some of South Africa's ball at the set-pieces.

Finally, full-back Stuart Hogg will no doubt be tested under the high ball should the Springboks make use of their kick and chase tactic. 

Head-to-head: Both number nines will run out as captains of their respective teams and each of them will be under considerable pressure. Greig Laidlaw will shoulder the kicking responsibilities and be eager to improve on the 26 points he slotted during Scotland's opening two fixtures.

Fourie du Preez on the other hand will be captaining the Springboks for the first time in his extended career. While being a veteran of 72 tests, Du Preez will be under extra pressure leading his country and will have to cater for some considerable youth on his outside in the form of his fly-half and two centres. As both will be behind a pack of forwards doing their utmost to create momentum, it may well be a case of who cracks first.

Previous results: 

2014: South Africa won 55-6 in Port Elizabeth 
2013: South Africa won 28-0 in Edinburgh 
2013: South Africa won 30-17 in Nelspruit 
2012: South Africa won 21-10 in Edinburgh 
2010: Scotland won 21-17 in Edinburgh 
2008: South Africa won 14-10 in Edinburgh 

Prediction: South Africa should be able to build on the strong performance up front against Samoa, with confidence restored after that stunning loss to Japan. While Scotland will punish them with the boot for mistakes and look in their best shape for some time as a squad under Cotter, the Springboks will take this one. South Africa by 12.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira  
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein 

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, October 3 
Venue: St James' Park, Newcastle 
Kick-off: 16:45 local (15:45 GMT) 
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) 
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales) 
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

by Doug Mattushek

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