Scottish rookie primed for Boks
Adam Ashe will become the seventh new cap of Scotland's mid-year tour when he takes to the field against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Ashe, the 20-year-old Glasgow Warriors No.8 and a product of the Hillfoots and Stirling County clubs, was preparing for club training at Lincoln University in Christchurch one week ago – having been domiciled for a couple of months in New Zealand's South Island as recipient of the John Macphail Scholarship.
Others have graduated to full international honours and have cited the "invaluable" experience the scholarship has bequeathed them.
These include John Barclay, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray and Kevin Bryce.
But none has won promotion so rapidly as Ashe, one of four changes from the starting line-up following the victory against Argentina in Cordoba last Friday – which preserved the tour's 100 percent record (after wins against the USA and Canada) and the ongoing successful beginning to Vern Cotter's tenure as Scotland head coach.
The other changes see Henry Pyrgos start instead of Grayson Hart at scrumhalf; Tim Swinson preferred to his fellow Glasgow Warrior, Jonny Gray, at lock and Chris Fusaro promoted from the bench instead of Blair Cowan who has returned home.
Pyrgos, among the try scorers in Cordoba last week, scored his first international try against South Africa two years ago.
Cotter has done his due diligence on Ashe and has seen enough in training here this week to mean that he will be Scotland's 1060th cap this weekend.
"He is a talented player and the reports of his form in New Zealand have been very positive," Cotter said.
"He's trained well with us and looked sharp. He is a specialist No.8 and this is a golden opportunity for him."
Ashe, who has played for Scotland at every age-grade level and was part of the Scotland Sevens squad at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in 2011, is excited by his debut.
"South Africa will be a massive physical challenge but you have to relish a chance like this," he said.
Local Eastern Province officials say a crowd in excess of 35,000 – more than watched South Africa's two recent Tests against Wales – will be present on Saturday.
As far as the other changes are concerned, Cotter stressed that both Gray and Hart had done well in Cordoba, but for this particular game he wished to start with Swinson and Pyrgos.
On the bench, only Dougie Fife remains from last week with the prospect of Tyrone Holmes, the 28-year-old Glasgow Warriors back row forward, becoming Scotland's eighth debutant of the tour, while at the other end of the experience scale, British Lions prop Euan Murray would be winning his 60th cap, should he be introduced.
Cotter added: "I've always regarded playing South Africa in South Africa as the benchmark. It's a massive challenge and it gives our boys an opportunity to lift their level.
"If we can make accurate choices in the way we play and impose our form of rugby then I think that will be a shift in the right direction.
"I've been pleased with the initiative that's developing within the team. We're starting to get good variety in our game. Now it's a matter of seeing if we can do it against very good opposition."
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Moray Low, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Tyrone Holmes, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Dougie Fife, 23 Peter Murchie.
Date: Saturday, June 28
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT; 16.00 BST)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)