Trying conditions and disruptive team changes may affect the Springboks’ synergy but it can’t prevent the inevitable result at Murrayfield.
In response to this statement, the ardent Scotland supporter will point to the upset of 2002. They will claim that this one victory over Rudolf Straeuli’s side served to confirm there are no certainties in Test rugby. But this Saturday, Scotland are up against a world champion Bok team. Winning may not be an attainable goal, and Scotland’s success could be gauged by the pride in their performance.
For the Boks, this fixture is important given the context of the tour and the 2009 British & Irish Lions series. South Africa have already scalped Wales and should bag Scotland, but the quality of Saturday’s display will indicate where they stand going into the Twickenham Test.
There’s been plenty of debate concerning the game plan and how it will be determined by this weekend’s weather. Bok assistant coach Dick Muir believes South Africa should play an expansive game if Murrayfield is dry, as this will result in more value for dominance. No rain is forecast for Saturday, but the cold and wind should play a big part in the flow of the game. It may also be wiser for the Boks to stick with the formula seen in Cardiff for the sake of continuity. The 22 November Test against England will see South Africa employing a direct approach, so to change now would be counterproductive in terms of preparation.
CURBING ATTACKING AILS
The Boks were criticised for their poor execution against Wales, and Muir also pointed out that possession was kicked away far too often in Cardiff. There should be more opportunities against a Scotland outfit lacking the same kind of defensive fortitude as a Shaun Edwards-inspired Wales. The Boks are spoiled for superstars in their back division while in the wider channels Scotland are a bit thin. On attack, the fact that Scotland haven’t scored a try at Murrayfield in 14 months says it all. The Boks will want to improve on the lacklustre defensive showing in Cardiff, a task made easier considering Scotland won’t apply the same sort of heat as the Dragons did last week.
MISSING DU PREEZ
The reputed kingpin of the Bok backline is injured, and while Fourie du Preez’s withdrawal does leave the Boks lighter in the tactical kicking department, his absence shouldn’t prove game-costing. The bigger concern is over Ruan Pienaar at 10, as with Du Preez sidelined he is unlikely to receive the same support from replacement scrumhalf Ricky Januarie. Januarie is better suited to the direct approach where his natural inclination towards the physical game is magnified, but he hardly offers another kicking option. Mike Blair will be a limited danger to the Boks, as the Scotland pack will battle against a world class Bok eight. His battle with Januarie, however, should prove entertaining.
Scotland may be buzzing after an impressive forward showing against the All Blacks B side, but the traditional might of the Springboks is a clear cut above. The much-improved Bok scrum should continue to progress while the Bok lineout will dominate. At the collisions, Scotland have a few individuals capable of standing toe-to-toe with the Boks but it is the visiting collective that are more skilled and attuned to the ELVs. Failure to dominate in this area would be a big disappointment for South Africa, even if they go on to win the game. If they do blitz the Scots at the breakdown, Murrayfield could witness a cricket score.
Prediction: Boks by 25
Scotland – 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Thom Evans, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Rory Lamont, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair (c), 8 Allister Hogg, 7 John Barclay, 6 Jason White, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Subs: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Matt Mustchin, 19 Scott Gray, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Hugo Southwell.
Springboks – 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Brian Mujati, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Jaque Fourie.