Planet Rugby

Preview: South Africa v Scotland

14th June 2013 07:26

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Adriaan Strauss of South Africa v Italy

One to watch: Adriaan Strauss

After last weekend's clinical display against Italy, the Springboks will be brimming with confidence ahead of Saturday's Test with Scotland in Nelspruit.

With this game once again forming part of a double-header - Italy and Samoa do battle in the early match - expect a huge crowd at the Mbombela Stadium which will be hosting Test rugby for the first time in its fledgling history.

The quadrangular tournament will be of great significance to South Africa, Scotland and Samoa as these three countries have been drawn into the same pool for the 2015 World Cup in England.

Despite a 15 minute period during the second half of their 44-10 victory over the Azzurri in Durban last weekend, the Boks dominated large parts of that game and will be keen to kick on and extend that dominance to an entire 80 minutes.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer asked for patience when he took over the reins of South Africa's national team in 2012, and despite that request falling on deaf ears in some quarters, he gave his country's supporters an appetiser of what he hopes can be achieved on a regular basis during 2013 with that performance against Italy.

There's an air of optimism sweeping through the country after new players like Willie le Roux and Arno Botha made impressive debuts last weekend.

That duo will look to build on those performances while Trevor Nyakane and Jan Serfontein - who also made their debuts last weekend - will look for longer cameos off the replacements bench.

Despite having other exciting youngsters like Piet van Zyl and Siya Kolisi at his disposal, Meyer has resisted the urge to include them in his starting line-up. One gets the feeling though that they will make a big impact on this encounter towards the latter stages of the second-half when the game becomes a loose affair.

Veterans Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn and Jean de Villiers showed they have plenty of gas left in their tanks last weekend and should once again play a major role in plotting the Scots' downfall.

A combination of injuries and poor form means Scotland have made seven changes to their run-on side. Last weekend's first-ever defeat to Samoa was a blow to boss Scott Johnson who did well to guide the team to third place during the Six Nations.

Veterans like Euan Murray, Jim Hamilton, Scott Lawson and Alasdair Strokosch will have huge roles in guiding their younger and less experienced team-mates in the forward exchanges against their opponents who thrive on dominating the physical exchanges.

Scotland's Achilles heel appears to be their back-line as, unlike their forwards, they don't have as much experience in that department.

Captain Greig Laidlaw, Ruaridh Jackson and Sean Lamont will be expected to provide direction to their inexperienced counterparts. A major reason for Scotland's defeat to Samoa was their inability to deal effectively with the physicality of the islanders.

Hopefully they would have worked on improving in that facet of play, as physical domination is also a key component of the Boks' game-plan.

Players to watch:

For South Africa: If, as expected, South Africa control proceedings, so much will depend on the effort of the home side's tight five. The performance of Adriaan Strauss as vice-captain and pack leader will be under the spotlight, especially as his great rival Bismarck du Plessis is set to make his return to action, via the replacements bench, after missing almost a year's action due to a serious knee injury. Strauss has made the Bok number two jersey his own during Du Plessis' stint on the sidelines, and will be keen to prove that he deserves to stay in the starting XV.

For Scotland: The visitors' new captain Greig Laidlaw is an intelligent player who, if his pack manages to be competitive, will play a huge role in getting his side onto the front foot. An accurate goal-kicker, Laidlaw's boot will be expected to keep the visitors in the match.

Head-to-head: Expect plenty of direct running and bone-crunching tackles between the two blindside flankers. Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch was one of his team's better players in last weekend's loss to Samoa and will look to continue where he left off in that clash when he takes on Bok bruiser Arno Botha who made a memorable debut against Italy after coming into the run-on side as a late replacement for Willem Alberts. Neither Strokosch nor Botha will take a backwards step in their quest to give their sides the upper-hand, so expect a fiercely contested battle.

Recent results:

2012: South Africa won 21-10 in Edinburgh
2010: South Africa lost 21-17 in Edinburgh
2008: South Africa won 14-10 in Edinburgh
2007: South Africa won 27-3 in Edinburgh
2006: South Africa won 29-15 in Port Elizabeth
2006: South Africa won 36-16 in Durban
2004: South Africa won 45-10 in Edinburgh
2003: South Africa won 28-19 in Johannesburg
2002: South Africa lost 21-6 in Edinburgh

Prediction: After last weekend's effort, there's a mood of expectation from Springbok supporters, who expect nothing less than a big win against a Scotland side who will have the difficult task of trying to keep the score as low as possible. South Africa to win by thirty points!

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stevie Lawrie, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Duncan Taylor.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Date: Saturday, June 15
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17.15 (local)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Nigel Hennessy (Wales)
Television match official:Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)
Assessor: Dennis Immelman

By David Skippers

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