It has been quite remarkable how Heyneke Meyer has talked up Scotland this week. You’d think the Boks were playing the world champions. They’re not, they’re playing the ninth-best team in the world, according to the IRB, and there should only be one winner: South Africa.
No matter who is coach and no matter who wears the green and gold, the Springboks should never lose to Scotland … even if Meyer is missing half his top men for the Test here at Murrayfield tomorrow.
The gulf in class between the teams is huge and there’s also that small matter of the Boks not wanting to go home next Sunday, after the England game, with egg on their faces, having lost to lowly Scotland, again.
Peter de Villiers’ men came unstuck here in 2010, ending their Grand Slam hopes, and while revenge has not been on the minds of the players this week, it certainly is something they don’t want to experience.
Meyer has talked up the Scots all week, ever since their passionate showing against New Zealand last weekend, saying the world champions really only won the game because of a 10-minute spell in the second half that killed off the hosts’ chances.
Meyer talked of the respect he has for Andy Robinson and his coaching team and for the players but while all that is good and well, if the Boks really fear the Scots then they really are on a slippery slope.
If you had to stop one of the younger Bok team members in the street and ask him to name just seven Scottish players he’ll be up against on Saturday, he’d not come close.
Scotland don’t feature on the Bok radar but that’s not a bad thing. Sure, there’s the chance of underestimating the opposition, as the team of 2010 did, but rather, as Meyer and Co have pointed out, the focus should far rather be on the Boks. And so it is, even if Meyer has talked the hosts up.
What the Boks need to do on Saturday is make a statement, a big one. Some observers suggest they also need to hit the 50-point mark as New Zealand did last Sunday but that shouldn’t be the goal. The Boks need to build on last week’s win over Ireland, ensure their set-pieces are again 100 percent secured and the foundation laid for the backs to play. They need to be clinical, show greater patience with ball in hand and maintain their high tackle count.
But, more than anything, Meyer’s men need to do this for 80 minutes.
If the Boks can have a repeat of their second half showing in Dublin, where they hung on to the ball for long periods, set up the driving maul and dominated the forwards exchanges, then they’ll have no problem in making it two from two on this trip.
While still young and inexperienced in many ways, there is something about this Bok team Meyer has picked that makes one excited. Juan de Jongh coming in at centre gives the team something different in midfield, perhaps an X-factor that has been missing this year, while Gurthrö Steenkamp’s inclusion in the front row gives them a big ball-carrying prop.
If the Boks click, having been together for a few weeks now, they could very easily do a New Zealand on the Scots. They’ve definitely got the pack to lay the platform, now it’s just a case of the backs coming to the party good and proper. If the weather’s good, which it looks like it will be, we may just be in for a great Bok performance.
Should we dare to dream?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, David Denton, Kelly Brown (capt), Alasdair Strokosch, Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray, Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant. Replacements: Dougie Hall, Kyle Traynor, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, John Barclay, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Peter Murchie.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (capt), Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthrö Steenkamp. Replacements: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Morné Steyn, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo. – The Star