Durban - Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell has taunted the Springboks by suggesting that he may change to a kicking style when the teams meet at Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off), but his opposite number, Elton Jantjies, is buying none of it.
Russell famously loves to run the ball and since the end of the British & Irish Lions tour, he has questioned whether coach Warren Gatland's conservative (kicking) approach against the Boks was the right strategy.
Russell came on in the third Test for Dan Biggar and tried to get the Lions backline going, with some success, and now that he is back with his beloved Scotland, it is hard to believe he is going to change tack.
Russell said: “I chatted to a few of the Springboks who were over in Paris at one of the French games (they were watching Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard play), and they said they expected Australia to run everything at us but they actually kicked everything, which was a different approach from them.
“I think they were on to something, so I might just kick a lot to throw the Boks off a little bit.”
Jantjies, who is starting on Saturday for Pollard, grinned when asked about Russell's comments in a media conference from Edinburgh.
“Let's see on Saturday what Scotland are going to do ...” Jantjies said. “We will see in the first 10 or 15 minutes and we will have solutions for whatever they deliver.
“But we saw what Finn is capable of in that last Test against the Lions — he challenged us in different ways (to the kicking game of Biggar), so we have experience of him and we have plans to stop what he is likely to throw at us.”
Adding weight to Jantjies' belief that Russell will continue to play to his natural attacking strengths is the obvious fact that his coach is Gregor
Townsend and he has also questioned whether a better plan would have been trying to run the Boks off their feet in the Lions series (Townsend was one of Gatland's assistants).
And Russell did go on to say the following: “Teams in the Rugby Championship showed that there are ways to break the Boks down and turn their strengths into weaknesses. We have picked up a few things about how we can attack them and defend against them.
“I am just looking forward to testing myself against the best team in the world. That's why you play sport.”
Russell did kick more than usual in his team's 15-13 defeat of the Wallabies last week but he also added in some typically adventurous play.
“A couple of times we ran from deep when I thought we had an advantage,” he said. “If it is on, I am happy to have a go from my own 22 and have a crack at it.
“My mindset is if it is on I take it. We played expansive, quick rugby at the weekend but we also have to take into account that we have to win the territory battle.”
Jantjies said that this Scotland team is a different animal to the one the
Boks beat in 2018 when Jantjies played off the bench and kicked a late penalty to guarantee the win.
“This Scotland team has beaten Australia as well as France away,” he said. “They have different players and a different energy and they work very hard for each other ...
“They will be highly motivated to play the world champions and they have a strong set-piece to back up the way the backs want to play,” the 31-year-old added. “They pride themselves on their scrums and line-outs, so that is a challenge for our guys up front.”