Preview: Scotland vs Springboks

JON CARDINELLI predicts a comfortable rather than convincing win for the Springboks in Edinburgh this Saturday.

Scotland have been a team on the relative rise, following a shock win against Australia in 2009 with a big victory over Ireland in the Six Nations. They went on to win a series in Argentina, and the more optimistic punters claimed they would be competitive against New Zealand and South Africa in late 2010.

While they deserved to win the aforementioned matches, special mention must go to the poor quality of opposition. Australia were awful in that loss, and Ireland went on to lose three more fixtures in succession, a losing streak that was only snapped by a scratchy win over Samoa. Argentina have been similarly disappointing, the 2007 World Cup semi-finalists sneaking home against lowly Italy last week.

The All Blacks provided some perspective with a 49-3 hammering of the outclassed Scots. While they’re capable of catching any team on a very bad day, Scotland cannot compete when the southern hemisphere teams show any sort of form. Even though the All Blacks didn’t have everything their own way at scrum time, they still held the ascendancy in other areas. If the All Blacks didn’t lose momentum in the latter stages, they may have surpassed 60 points.

The Boks are without many of their first-choice players, so we shouldn’t expect the same attacking fluidity that characterised the All Blacks performance last Saturday. What we can expect is a determined forward showing, as the Boks will look to produce a consistent effort after the erratic display in Cardiff.

Their scrum is in for a challenge, with British & Irish Lions tourists Euan Murray and Ross Ford supplying the necessary power to the Scottish pack. But as a unit, the Boks boast the better tight five. An accurate showing at the set-piece will allow their ball carriers to build the same kind of momentum that proved so unstoppable in Cardiff. The platform-setting aggression paved the way for Willem Alberts and Victor Matfield’s second-half tries.

Deon Stegmann, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski are an inexperienced back-row combination, but should enjoy the benefit of playing behind a dominant tight five. Kankowski has a lot to prove in the ball-carrying stakes. Until the point when the home resistance crumbles he will be asked to play a more bruising role than he’s accustomed to.

Andy Robinson has picked a big Scotland pack in hope of combating the robust South Africans. Traditionally a lock, Nathan Hines is moved to flank to give the Scots more lineout options, and bring more grunt to the all-important battle at the collisions. If the hosts cannot stifle the Boks in this area, then they will cop another hiding.

The severity of the beating depends on whether the Boks click or not. They have played well in patches on this tour, showing an appreciation for depleting a defence and attacking from the right areas, but then also exhibiting a tendency to make bad decisions and run the ball from poor positions. They’ll need to exhibit some tactical intelligence before unleashing finishers like Gio Aplon and debutant Lwazi Mvovo this Saturday.

It could be that Scotland opt to test South Africa’s new-look back three with the high ball. To do so would run the risk of exposing themselves to the counter-attack, and as seen in last week’s outing, Scotland’s scramble defence isn’t great. While the Boks shouldn’t embrace a looser game, they must punish Scotland’s errors. Again, it comes down to decision making of when to counter-attack and when to play for position.

Because of the injuries and the lack of established combinations in several departments, the Boks won’t complete a rout in Edinburgh. They will achieve a comfortable win though, one that gives them momentum for their all-important clash with England, but offers little insight into how youngsters like Pat Lambie may fare in a starting capacity.

Prediction: Boks by 15

Scotland – 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Max Evans, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Rory Lawson (c), 8 John Barclay, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Nathan Hines, 5 Scott MacLeod, 4 Richie Gray 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Subs: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Richie Vernon, 19 Ross Rennie, 20 Greig Laidlaw, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Chris Paterson.

Springboks -15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 Adi Jacobs.

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