Scotland have lost more Tests than they have won and a lot more than they have won against South Africa. In 19 Tests they have lost 15 and won four.
Paul Dobson writes for Rugby 365 that the Scots would like to change this at Murrayfield on Saturday and their talk has been pretty big.
The big talk is surprising as they were well and truly beaten just last weekend by a weakened New Zealand side – weakened but, of course, not weak.
But South Africa have paid the Scots the compliment of putting their best side forward – and then suffered a major blow when Fourie du Preez, a world star, had to withdraw through a practice-field injury. His calm, skill and work rate are of enormous value to his side.
Du Preez apart, South Africa will put onto the field the same team that beat Wales, not convincingly but still two tries to nil.
Like Wales against the Springboks, Scotland did not score a try against New Zealand. Like Wales (against the Boks) they had chances to score tries but like Wales there was no effort that convinced that a try was on. They had five five-metre scrums and did not score a try. The All Blacks scored four tries and looked capable of more.
Look down the Scottish side, which has just one enforced change in a swap of Lamont brothers, and you wonder where they are going to score a try, if the Welsh could not and the Welsh have greater speed and verve and were playing in perfect conditions.
How could Scotland score a try? They could score one off errors, as the Welsh nearly did. They have in Chris Paterson and Rory Lamont, and in lively scrumhalf Mike Blair, three zestful players who could make the most of opposition errors. They could also bash more effectively than they did against New Zealand.
Tries do not look like their best way of scoring, but penalties do. The Scots have a brilliant goal-kicker in Chris Paterson and if the Springboks are as prodigal as they were against Wales when they gave away 15 penalties (and seven free kicks) Paterson may well get several chances to score. Nine of those penalties came in the second half.
The Springboks on the other hand can score tries. They have two centres and two wings who can score tries. They have halfbacks who can score tries. They have loose forwards who can score tries. The Springboks will score tries.
The Scots will be determined in the scrums but their front row does not look capable of doing what the Welsh front row could not do – budge the Springboks, but if the Springboks have to put in an extra effort to shore up their skipper there may be other areas where the Scots could gain capital. The best of those may well be the post-tackle confrontation, an area where the Scots have traditionally been good. The Welsh won the collision and Scotland have the men and technique to do in like manner. This area could be crucial to the outcome of the match,
Penalties and tackle/rucks could feed Scotland best.
The Springboks have three exceptional players to come off their bench – game-breaker Ryan Kankowski, multi-talented Frans Steyn and that racehorse Jaque Fourie who has been straining at the bit for some time now. Their bench looks better than the Scots’.
What part will kicking out of hand play? Against Wales the Springboks kicked 41 times while the Scots kicked only 15 times against New Zealand. That’s a huge difference. The Scots are also more likely to try to counter whereas the Springboks only once ran the ball back at Wales – and then conceded a penalty for holding on. The problem for Scotland is that the Springboks have players who can kick the ball a long way. Counterattacking means a long run. That length will have shortened with the withdrawal of Du Preez.
What part will the weather play? The prophets say it will rain on Thursday, rain on Friday, but there will be no rain on Saturday. That’s what they say – not that Saturday will be a day of Durban summer. It will be cold. Caledonia stern and wild will have its say. And the going will be heavy.
Players to Watch:
For Scotland: Amongst Scotland’s backs durable Chris Paterson, bustling Rory Lamont and lively Mike Blair are likely to catch the eye – especially Blair. And in the pack John Barclay is the best bet to be eye-catching.
For South Africa: The Scots may well learn to love Tendai Mtawarira and growl Beast when he gets the ball. They did so at Millennium Stadium as they do in all South African grounds. After just one season he has become a big personality. You will see Victor Matfield in the line-outs and competitive Schalk Burger all over the place. It could be interesting to see if Pierre Spies and Juan Smith can lift their game to previous heights; otherwise hope that Ryan Kankowski gets on. All of the Springbok backs are worth watching – even Bryan Habana to see if he can come back from a mediocre season and make himself again the darling of the rugby world.
Head to Head: Perky Ricky January against lively Mike Blair, two players eager to seize a half chance. That is an interesting contest where the ball becomes available. Nathan Hines against Bakkies Botha may well be a contest in which neither combatant yields a step.
2007: South Africa won 27-3 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
2006: South Africa won 29-15 at Boet Erasmus, Port Elizabeth
2006: South Africa won 36-16 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2004: South Africa won 45-10 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
2003: South Africa won 28-19 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2003: South Africa won 29-25 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2002: Scotland won 21-6 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Prediction: All things are always possible but we think the Springboks will be better than they were in Cardiff and win by eight points or so.
Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Thom Evans, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Rory Lamont, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair (captain), 8 Alistair Hogg, 7 John Barclay, 6 Jason White, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Matt Mustchin, 19 Scott Gray, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Hugo Southwell
South Africa: 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 (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Brian Mujati, 17 Gürthro Steenkamp, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Jaque Fourie.
Date: Saturday, 15 November
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT)
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Weather: Scattered clouds with a high of 11°C, dropping to 3°C and a westerly of 21 km/h dropping to 14 km/h
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Touch judges: Alain Rolland (England), Hugh Watkins (Wales)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)