Preview: Scotland v South Africa
NOVEMBER INTERNATIONALS: Scotland is no push-over, nor are South Africa.
This could just be a tough match, full of robust intent, reassuring those who think that rugby is losing its manliness and growing closer to tiddlywinks.
Scotland has been playing excellent rugby under coach Gregor Townsend, and are climbing up the rankings with victories over Australia, France, England and Argentina.
The All Blacks beat them by only five points last year.
They know the Springboks will make hard contact, but are determined to take them on.
The Scottish backs – from Greig Laidlaw to Stuart Hogg – have the ability to spring surprises and score tries, and the determined organisation to defend well.
The Springboks have been playing better rugby, but spoil their efforts by not taking scoring chances.
Even last week they had three goes at scoring the winning try.
Once they lost the ball over the line, then the last pass was judged forward and only then did Mbongeni Mbonambi score the try that beat France.
They have also made life hard for themselves by poor kicking out of hand.
Players to watch
For Scotland: The backs. Stuart Hogg, back earlier from an ankle injury than expected, is a player of great vision and skill. He is fast, has a huge boot and is courageous. He is certainly a player to watch. Finn Russell at flyhalf is a creative player with several strings to his bow. Greig Laidlaw is an experienced player, of great, calm skill. Huw Jones is an international player all on his own – born in Scotland with the most Welsh of names, brought up in England and playing his rugby in South Africa in his early adulthood. He is an excellent all-round centre who knows his way to the try-line. Of the forwards Hamish Watson, Jonny Gray and loose forward-turned-hooker Stuart McInally is likely to catch the eye. The Springboks best capable of constraining Watson are not in their starting loose forwards. A quarter of the Scottish squad is from overseas – three South Africans, two New Zealanders and an Australian.
For South Africa: Their power is probably up front, though at the back Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sibusiso Nkosi have great speed and clever footwork while Willie le Roux can produce the exciting unexpected. Every one of the forwards is worth watching, but especially the power of Duane Vermeulen and the relentless energy of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert. And South African fans will want to see Malcolm Marx back to his best.
Head to head: Hogg versus Le Roux at the back and close to the forwards, experienced Greg Laidlaw, 33 years of age with 63 caps, versus Embrose Papier, 21 and starting a Test for the first time. Front Row versus Front Row – Willem Nel, Stuart McInally and Gordon Reid against Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff with the money on the Springbok trio. Goal-kicker versus Goal-kicker – Greig Laidlaw versus Handré Pollard. Overall stats back Laidlaw, 84 percent versus 70 percent, but Pollard is fresh from a perfect goal-kicking performance in Paris. Bench versus Bench. It may well have been the bench that set up the Springbok victory against France, and this week the Springbok bench again has a good look about it as every one of the eight brings something special. It looks quite a bit more effective than the Scottish bench.
2015: South Africa won 34-16, Newcastle (World Cup pool match)
2014: South Africa won 55-6, Port Elizabeth
2013: South Africa won 30-17, Nelspruit
2013: South Africa won 28-0, Edinburgh
2012: South Africa won 21-10, Edinburgh
2010: Scotland won 21-17, Edinburgh
2008: South Africa won 14-10, Edinburgh
2007: South Africa won 27-3, Edinburgh
2006: South Africa won 29-15, Port Elizabeth
2006: South Africa won 36-16, Durban
Most recent Results against Common Opponents
Argentina: Scotland won 44-15; South Africa lost 32-19
Australia: Scotland won 53-24; South Africa won 23-12
England: Scotland won 25-13; South Africa lost 12-11
France: Scotland won 32-26; South Africa won 29-26
New Zealand: Scotland lost 22-17; South Africa lost 32-30
Wales: Scotland lost 21-10; South Africa lost 22-20
Prediction: History says South Africa; results against common opponents say Scotland. Both teams have played two matches this month. Scotland lost to Wales and lathered Fiji. South Africa lost to England and narrowly defeated France. Scotland is ranked sixth, South Africa fifth on World Rugby’s rankings. All this suggests that it could be a close affair. Despite all this, we believe that the Springboks will win by 10 points – or more IF they do not kick hard-won ball to Scotland and if they score when the chance is offered.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Date: Saturday, 17 November 2018
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 17.20 (17.20 GMT; 19.20 SA time)
Expected weather: Cold. Partly cloudy with a high of 11°C and a low of 4°C.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
By Paul Dobson