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Preview: South Africa v Scotland

26th June 2014 15:34

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Scotland v South Africa Willie le Roux

Danger man: Wille le Roux

After both snatched victory from the jaws of defeat last weekend, South Africa and Scotland round off the June Tests in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The circumstances for the two wins were somewhat different as the Springboks overturned a 13-point deficit in ten devastating minutes to beat Wales, while Scotland required a late Duncan Weir penalty to see off second-string Argentina.

Not much can be read into the Scots' performance in Cordoba; this tour is all about dishing out the game-time and allowing Vern Cotter to run his eye over a huge swathe of the players at his disposal.

Last Friday, they looked ponderous and tentative, all too often opting for the simple, one-off carries that played right into the Pumas' paws. They were overrun at the breakdown, and didn't move the ball wide as often as they should have.

When they did unshackle themselves from the impotent forward monotony, they looked dangerous, as the sharp service of Grayson Hart, the distribution of Nick De Luca and the raw pace and directness of Tommy Seymour combined to great effect.

It was far from a full-strength Scottish XV, and that remains the case this weekend, but even the most ardent kilted fanatic would be hard pushed to deny his side are in for a long old day in PE if significant improvements are not made.

It's a huge day for 20-year-old Adam Ashe, hurled into Test rugby having made just one appearance for Glasgow Warriors this season. He has nothing to lose given the calibre of the opposition, and a real opportunity out of the blue to show what he's made of against one of the global game's most physical back-rows: he starts opposite Duane Vermeulen.

Scott Johnson's Scotland came to Nelspruit a year ago and went blow-for-blow with the Boks for an hour thanks to a brilliantly competitive breakdown performance that bordered on sheer defiance, and the fearlessness of young, uninhibited backs like Matt Scott and Alex Dunbar.

But this South African side is a far more complete and accomplished beast than the one that toiled to victory last June, even minus their overseas-based stars. Wales produced one of the most outstanding performances in recent memory from a Northern Hemisphere side against one of the South's big three, and still came up inexorably short.

The composure of the old triumvirate when the chips are down is legendary. Teams this good don't panic, and after last week's close shave, talk of a "Boklash" abounds.

The Boks under Heyneke Meyer are a joy to behold. Merging the traditional South African power-game with a thrilling brand of expansive rugby, orchestrated by Willie le Roux, the wily coach has almost liberated them from the one-dimensional tactics of old.

Le Roux himself, possessed of dazzling feet, blistering pace, and above all, the vision to sniff out, exploit and capitalise on chinks in the opposition armour, is among the most dangerous outside backs in world rugby. He's the game-breaker.

Factor in Lwazi Mvovo and Cornal Hendricks out wide, and precocious debutant Handré Pollard at fly-half, and the upshot on Saturday should be a lot of running rugby.

Pollard is fresh off the plane from Auckland where he captained the Baby Boks to the Junior World Championship Final. Supremely talented, and unfazed so far by his rise to prominence, Chris Fusaro must keep South African rugby's blue-eyed boy in his sights.

Ones to watch:

South Africa: Livewire le Roux will grab the headlines, but debutant Pollard is the man we ought to be keeping tabs on. Earmarked for seriously big things in Test rugby.

Scotland: If the Scots are to gain a competitive platform up front, Geoff Cross has to stand strong in the tight. Scotland's form tighthead must hold his own against a monstrous Springbok eight.

Head-to-head: An astute Twitter follower pointed out a gulf in age, experience and caps that borders on the ridiculous between the two skippers, Victor Matfield and Grant Gilchrist. 14 years and 105 Tests separate the pair, who line up opposite each other in the second-row. The young Scot will face no greater challenge, nor be treated to such a masterclass in lock play than by the veteran who can do it all.

Prediction: The Boks have far too much firepower for Scotland to contain. South Africa by 15.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Zane Kirchner.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Al Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Moray Low, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Tyrone Holmes, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Dougie Fife, 23 Peter Murchie

Date: Saturday 28th June
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 1700 local, 1600 BST
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (Fra), Marius Mitrea (Ita)
TMO: Glenn Newman (NZ)

By Jamie Lyall

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