Preview: Scotland vs Springboks

RYAN VREDE, in Edinburgh, analyses the key match ups and picks the winner in Saturday’s Test at Murrayfield.

I’ve written extensively about the importance of the victory over Ireland in Dublin last week from Heyneke Meyer’s perspective and what it would have done for the mental growth of the collective. However, the quality of the performance needs to improve against a determined Scotland side who come into the Test with confidence gained from having beaten the Springboks recently and indeed tested the world champion All Blacks last Sunday.

I think there will be three key areas the Springboks have to master if they are to win: The gainline and breakdown on attack (I’m confident they’ll do so on defence), the lineout and goal-kicking.

Scotland have great belief that their rush defence system will blunt the Springboks’ aerial assault, cutting down the tourist’s primary strike runners’ space and time and consequently creating broken-field opportunities from poor punts. The tourists’ strike runners were poor in the first half at Lansdowne Road but upped the ante after the break which saw a drastic change in the Test’s attacking complexion. They have to be on point, not only for the efficiency of their kicking game, but also the fluency of their ball-in-hand attack, with Scotland exhibiting an appetite for spoiling play at the breakdown. It is therefore imperative that they win the collisions and clean well if they hope to ease their attacking task.

With their attack in what Meyer called the ‘goal zone’ (between the 22m and opposition tryline) unlikely to show marked improvement, they will rely heavily on their lineout mauling as a try-scoring weapon. Territory is key in this regard and if they are able to set up drives close to the aforementioned zone I cannot see Scotland’s pack denying them regularly. Expect them to crumble under the force of the Springboks’ shove or concede penalties, which then heightens the importance of goal kicker Pat Lambie.

The Springbok flyhalf kicked relatively well last week, but with his side’s now chronic struggles to cross the chalk, he will be acutely aware of how critical it is that he contributes with the boot.

The forecast is for heavy rain on Saturday, which will demand a tight approach from both teams. In a war of attrition, the Springboks have an edge but Scotland will be combative for at least three quarters of the match. The vistors’ bench boasts some strong impact players and they could prove to be a determining factor in the result, but they must have a platform on which to build, as I suspect that chasing the game with the Scots galvanised by the prospect of another Springboks scalp and passionate home crowd roused, could be terminal to the Springboks’ cause.

There has been a patent determination about the Springboks this week and their supporters will hope that translates into a clinical performance. Victory is non-negotiable.

VREDE’S CALL: Springboks by 10

Scotland – 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.
Subs: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Stuart McInally, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Murchie.

Springboks – 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 Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morne Steyn, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.