Planet Rugby

Preview: Scotland v South Africa

16th November 2012 07:02

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Steenkamp v Murray box

Scrum battle: Steenkamp v Murray

Springbok fans will expect a convincing victory at Murrayfield on Saturday but Scotland have reason to believe they can win. Stranger things have happened!

Indeed, the last time South Africa visited the Scottish capital, in 2010, they were given a rude awakening as Dan Parks kicked the hosts to victory. Two years earlier, the Boks needed a late try from Jaque Fourie to snatch the win after being outplayed for long periods.

Ask any Aussie fan if Scotland are capable of upsetting the big guns in world rugby and you're likely to get a sheepish answer. Victory over the Wallabies in 2009 and an unbeaten southern hemisphere tour in June further strengthen the Scot's credentials as giant slayers.

Of course, it's easy to write the home side off after the All Blacks put 50 points past them last week, but Sunday's scoreboard reveals another statistic that South African fans should take into consideration before betting their life savings on a Bok victory.

Scotland scored three tries against New Zealand - becoming the first team to do so since the all-conquering Kiwis started their 18-game unbeaten streak in August last year. By comparison, it's taken South Africa four games to score that many tries against the All Blacks.

There will be no drubbing this weekend. Quite simply, the Springboks have neither the attacking prowess nor the mindset to follow the example set by New Zealand.

Two midweek comments - one from either camp - best sum up what we can expect to see on Saturday.

"Attack puts bums in seats but defence wins trophies," said Heyneke Meyer, in a perfect illustration of his 'safety first' approach to the game that explains not only many of the Bok coach's selections but also his team's chronic lack of creativity.

The other soundbite worth repeating is from Zimbabwean-born and South African-raised Scotland back-rower David Denton, who believes the Springboks' physical approach will suit his side.

The Scots couldn't match the All Blacks' attacking genius but they gave them a good run for their money in the tight exchanges and Denton reckons they can do they same again.

"These Boks'.. tempo is a lot slower and they are a lot more physical but we can definitely handle that," said Denton.

Saying that you 'definitely handle' the guaranteed green and gold onslaught is one thing, actually doing it when the Bok battering ram starts hammering away is an entirely different prospect. You can be sure that Andy Robinson has been drilling home one point in particular all week, and Denton hit the nail on the head when he said "you can't win matches if you don't make your tackles."

Yes, defence - the Springboks' number one priority, their bread and butter, the crux or their gameplan - has been Scotland's Achilles heel for years. The Bok attack might not be flash, that you can bet your bottom dollar on the waves of big, straight runners being relentless. How long the Scottish line will hold is the key question.

Add to the equation the South African maul, which is probably the best the world game right now. If the Scots can't stop it rolling towards the whitewash, their fate will be similar to that suffered by Ireland last week.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: Educated in South Africa's Eastern Cape, David Denton's selection at number eight forces captain Kelly Brown to shift to blindside flank. 22-year-old Denton was a revelation during the Six Nations but missed the June tour with an ankle injury and has made a slow start to the season with Edinburgh. He needs a series a big performances to get back into the reckoning for the British and Irish Lions squad. Up front, Euan Murray - who missed the All Blacks game on Sunday due to his religious beliefs - has been added to the front-row to bring some bulk and grunt at scrum time. He takes the place of Geoff Cross, who scored a try last week, but while Robinson was anxious to point out that Cross did little wrong, Murray's power in the set-piece will be needed.

For South Africa: There are only four survivors in the starting XV from the team that was shocked at Murrayfield two years ago: Francois Hougaard, Jean de Villiers, Zane Kirchner and Jannie du Plessis. Filling the gap left by Jaque Fourie at outside centre has been a problem area for the Boks and Juan de Jongh is finally been given his chance. Many have questioned whether the 1.75m, 85kg Stormers centre is big enough for the role but De Jongh has promised to "prove all the people who believe I shouldn't be there wrong." Before he headed to Toulouse, Gurthrö Steenkamp was regarded as one of the strongest props in the game. The scrummaging experts reckon his stint in France has made him even better. His return to the Bok camp is significant.

Head-to-head: The clash between Scotland's best attacking weapon and South Africa's Players' Player of the Year is set to be a classic. A try for JP Pietersen would see the wing overtake Chester Williams's 14 tries for South Africa while the flying Dutchman Tim Visser is well on his way to becoming a great Scot. As mentioned above, the battle between to great scrummagers, Murray - who gave the Boks a working over in 2008 and 2010 - and Steenkamp should be good to watch.

Previous results:2010: Scotland won 21-17 at Murrayfield
2008: South Africa won 14 -10 at Murrayfield
2007: South Africa won 27-3 at Murrayfield
2006: South Africa won 29-15 in Port Elizabeth
2006: South Africa won 36-16 in Durban
2004: South Africa won 45-10 at Murrayfield
2003: South Africa won 28-19 in Johannesburg
2003: South Africa won 29-25 in Durban
2002: Scotland won 21-6 at Murrayfield

Prediction: Both sides have struggled to score points in recent games, with neither Scotland nor South Africa topping a cumulative total of 100 points in their last five games, so a low-scoring encounter is on the cards. The hosts looked great for periods against the All Blacks but their inability to be consistent in defence over the full 80 minutes is likely to cost them, again. South Africa by ten points

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Scotland (revised): 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown (c), 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Stuart McInally , 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Murchie.

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Date: Saturday 16 November
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (16:30 SA time)
Weather: Clear skies. 7°C max.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Christophe Berdos (France)
Television match official: Eric Gauzins (France)

By Ross Hastie

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